Scientists have uncovered a window of opportunity when it is possible to identify cattle infected with foot-and-mouth disease virus before they become infectious and/or show signs of having the disease.
Scientists have uncovered a window of opportunity when it is possible to identify cattle infected with foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) before they become infectious and/or show signs of having the disease.
Researchers at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) along with colleagues at DEFRA are now assessing if this window of opportunity can be exploited to reduce the number of animals that are culled during an outbreak.
The researchers, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), have shown for the first time that the period in which cattle are infectious before they show clinical signs of disease is much shorter than previously thought.
The research, carried out at IAH and the University of Edinburgh, demonstrates that diagnosis of FMDV infection is possible during the approximately 24 hours before the animal becomes infectious.
Importantly, if this short window of opportunity is to be exploited there is a need for further development of effective and efficient in-field diagnostic tools that can detect the virus as early as researchers have been able to using laboratory techniques.
In addition, similar studies could be performed for other acute viral diseases such as influenza. This would help refine our understanding of how diseases spread and choose the most appropriate measures to control an outbreak.
Dr Bryan Charleston who led the team at the IAH said: “Our discovery is good news and we hope that it will enable future refinement of the methods we use to control FMDV in the UK and beyond.”
Prof Mark Woolhouse who led the University of Edinburgh team said: “This new information pins down the critical times for the detection and control of foot-and-mouth disease much more accurately. We now know that there is a window where, if affected cattle are detected and removed promptly, there may be no need for pre-emptive culling in the immediate area of an infected farm.”
The research was funded by BBSRC as part of its Combating Viral Diseases of Livestock Initiative. The initiative was launched by BBSRC to further our understanding of damaging livestock diseases that cause significant economic, welfare and food security challenges.
- This research is published in a paper entitled “Relationship Between Clinical Symptoms and Transmission of an Infectious Disease and the Implications for Control” and is available online now to subscribers of the journal Science.