USDA scientists have identified the primary site where the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) begins infection in cattle, which could lead to development of new vaccines to control and potentially eradicate the disease.
The discovery was made by scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center at Orient Point, N.Y. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and this finding supports USDA’s priority of promoting international food security.
“Because we have determined the actual route the FMD virus takes in infected cattle, we can now begin to target the virus-host interaction in an effort to develop better vaccines and biotherapeutic counter-measures against the disease,” says Jonathan Arzt, veterinary medical officer with the study.
Although the U.S. has not had an FMD outbreak since 1929, the disease is still considered a serious threat. Vaccines that offer temporary immunity for livestock have been developed, but there is no universal FMD vaccine against the disease. Because there are seven different types of FMD viruses and more than 60 subtypes, vaccines must be highly specific, matched to the type and subtype present in the area of an outbreak, to protect animals against clinical signs of disease. Blocking the initial site of infection may be the most effective way to achieve complete protection.