New vaccine against foot and mouth disease

Here’s an article from Understanding Animal Research (UAR) about a new vaccine against foot and mouth disease (FMD).

FMD is a highly infectious disease of cloven-hoofed animals, caused by the virus Aphthae epizooticae. It’s not to be confused with hand, foot and mouth disease which is a human disease caused by a different virus. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) tells us why FMD is a notifiable disease in Britain. Why, twelve years ago, our farming industry was devastated by a mass cull of livestock infected by A. epizooticae. Here’s a list of notifiable diseases affecting livestock in Britain.

But there’s already a vaccine! It’s made by attenuating the live virus. That means that the vaccine is alive, and it triggers the animal’s immune response, but it almost never causes disease. You can scroll down the UAR page to see a map of where that vaccine is being used in the world. Mostly in developing countries, not in rich countries.

When I discuss FMD in Britain a question often comes up: why not vaccinate? Here’s why. With the existing vaccine, you can’t tell a vaccinated cow, sheep or pig from one that’s infecting other animals. Other countries in Europe didn’t want to accept livestock imports from Britain while we had FMD. Therefore, farmers couldn’t export livestock as usual.

DEFRA explains the current FMD control strategy for Britain. It doesn’t include vaccination. But as an article in the Farmers Guardian explains, people disagree about FMD vaccination.

Soon the new vaccine might make that debate redundant. The new vaccine is a modified version of the protein which forms the viral ‘coat’. Due to the modification, this isn’t a live virus and it can’t cause disease as the existing vaccine occasionally can. The new vaccine isn’t yet approved for use here in Britain or anywhere else, but we can hope.

Here’s an article from a North American news outlet, Fox News, about progress in developing the new vaccine.

About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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5 Responses to New vaccine against foot and mouth disease

  1. Tony says:

    Having clicked on the DEFRA list of notifiable diseases, I am curious to know how many of these issues are exacerbated by potential overuse of antibiotics. As I don’t possess any knowledge in this field, I obviously cannot comment. Also, does our habit of widespread application of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides and the like have any effect too, maybe not? Diseases don’t just appear for no good reason, I guess. Besides, when you hear about all the different tree diseases out there, it also begs the question, whether they are all brought about by air borne pathogens. Anyway, no more talk from me now, I’m out of my depth here but am still interested to hear your thoughts and those from others.

    • argylesock says:

      What interesting questions. I don’t have instant answers but I notice that some diseases move around because their host organisms carry them around. TB when people travel or cattle are transported. Ash dieback when saplings are transported. I feel more topics for my to-blog list…

      • Tony says:

        Cheers, good to know I wasn’t talking complete nonsense then. Interesting too, that the two you mention above prove humans to be at least part of the cause. Ultimately, I guess, we all need to respect the environment more because there’s only so much, the ecosystems can stand. It seems I can rely on you to find out more as time goes by. I can’t wait to find out what we learn from this.

        Thank you kindly


  2. Daniel Digby says:

    I notice that you referenced Faux News. They didn’t check with Jenny McCarthy, our expert on vaccines, to find out whether FMD vaccine causes bovine autism. Does Britain have it’s share of vaccine crazies?

    • argylesock says:

      Yes it does! You’ve got me laughing aloud, but in a sour way because anti-vaxxers do real harm. There are a few outbreaks of measles in British children now. I haven’t looked up Real News about whether those cases are children whose parents denied them MMR (the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine) but I’d expect that to be so.

      Bovine autism! I know several autistic people and don’t want to insult them, but the idea of an autistic cow does make me chuckle.

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