Freedom of Information Team
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street
Mr Horn request-679704-
24 August 2020
Dear Mr Horn,
Freedom of Information Request Reference FOI-1243364
Thank you for your request dated 25 July 2020 in which you asked the Department of Health and
Social Care (DHSC):
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Full, accurate and complete disclosure of SARS-
COV-2 virus records
Please provide a full, accurate and complete list of records held within your office, and or
under your authority, describing the isolation of a SARS-COV-2 virus, directly taken from a
symptomatic patient of COVID-19 where the sample was not first combined with any other
source of genetic material (not limited but by way of example monkey kidney cells, aka vero
cells, liver cancer cells) thereby eliminating contamination as a possible alternative source
Please note isolation is used in the normally understood meaning of the word – the act of
separating a thing from another. I am not referring, and hence not requesting, to isolation
meaning the culture of something else, the performance of an amplification test (eg PCR
test which only detect mRNA or DNA) or the sequencing of “something”.
If any records match the above description and are available to the public elsewhere, please
provide enough information so that I may identify and access each record with certainty
(i.e. title, author(s), date, journal, and weblink or location where the public may access it).
I remind you full, accurate and complete disclosure is required.
Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
DHSC does not hold information on the isolation of a SARS-COV-2 virus.
However, outside of the scope of the FOIA, and on a discretionary basis, the following information
has been advised to us, which may be of interest. Most infectious diseases are caused by viruses,
bacteria or fungi. Some bacteria or fungi have the capacity to grow on their own in isolation, for
example in colonies on a petri dish. Viruses are different in that they are what we call “obligate
pathogens” – that is, they cannot survive or reproduce without infecting a host. An explainer of
these different types of pathogen (disease causing agents) can be found from BMC Biology here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5648414/
For some diseases, it is possible to establish causation between a microorganism and a disease
by isolating the pathogen from a patient, growing it in pure culture and reintroducing it to a healthy
organism. These are known as “Koch’s postulates” and were developed in 1884. However, as our
understanding of disease and different disease-causing agents has advanced, these are no longer
the method for determining disease causation. It has long been known that viral diseases cannot
be identified in this way as viruses cannot be grown in ‘pure culture’. When a patient is tested for a
viral illness, this is normally done by looking for the presence of antigens, or viral genetic code in a
host with molecular biology techniques.
If you have any queries in relation to the above discretionary information, we suggest that you may
wish to contact the Government Office for Science (Go-Science). FOI requests may be submitted
to Go-Science at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are not satisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to appeal by asking for
an internal review. This should be submitted within two months of the date of this letter and sent to email@example.com,
or to the address at the top of this letter.
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communication.
If you are not content with the outcome of your internal review, you may complain directly to the
Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you
have already appealed our original response and received our internal review decision. You should
raise your concerns with the ICO within three months of your last meaningful contact with us.
The ICO can be contacted at:
The Information Commissioner's Office
SK9 5AF https://ico.org.uk/concerns/
Freedom of Information Officer E: firstname.lastname@example.org