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H. H. Skinner

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ON March 5, Hubert Henry Skinner, FRCVS, of Longfield, Rowe Lane, Pirbright, Woking, Surrey. Mr Skinner qualified from London in 1937.

Tony Garland, Bob Sellers and Alex Donaldson write: Hubert Skinner died peacefully at his home in Pirbright at the age of 97 years. He had a long and distinguished career at the Pirbright Institute, retiring in 1979 having achieved international fame for his pioneering research on foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and other animal viruses.

During the early stages of FMD research, virus titrations were performed in guinea pigs, but work at Pirbright clearly demonstrated that this species was far from satisfactory for the purpose, since its susceptibility to different strains of the virus was extremely variable. Especially important was the finding that while guinea pigs were highly susceptible to guinea pig-adapted strains, they were relatively insusceptible to freshly isolated cattle strains. Consequently, intensive efforts were made to adapt FMD virus to some other convenient laboratory animal. In 1951, Hubert Skinner showed that when seven- to 10-day-old mice were inoculated by the intraperitoneal route, they developed an acute, fatal clinical infection. It was also found that they showed the same susceptibility as cattle. The suckling mouse assay afforded a convenient means of virus titration under biosecure conditions and large numbers of animals could be used at relatively low cost, thereby increasing the accuracy of assays. This outstanding discovery led to the employment of suckling mice as the preferred system for the assay of infectivity and serum antibody for many decades, until superseded by cell culture systems.

Another deficiency in respect of FMD at that time was that existing vaccines were of the inactivated variety and were not only difficult to produce in the massive quantities that were required but also capable of producing only relatively short-lived immunity. Attempts were being made …

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