A pioneering method of diagnosing foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has been discovered that could spare the lives of more small laboratory animals.

Test tubes
Scientists at The Pirbright Institute have been able to create large amounts of bovine intergrin αvβ6 in the laboratory. IMAGE: Alex_Traksel / Fotolia.

A reagent is under investigation that negates the need for antibodies raised in small animals and instead uses the protein integrin αvβ6 to bind the FMD virus (FMDV) in samples, along with monoclonal antibodies produced in vitro without the need for animals.

Scientists at The Pirbright Institute have been able to create large amounts of bovine intergrin αvβ6 in the laboratory using a rapid technique called transient cell transfection. This could make the diagnosis of FMD strains cheaper and easier, as only one integrin would be needed to identify all strains of FMDV – compared to the many antibodies needed previously.

Step forward

Lead researcher Gareth Shimmon said: “The ability to rapidly produce a cost-effective universal diagnostic reagent for FMD is an important step forward in simplifying lab-based diagnostics and making these techniques more accessible to the many countries struggling to control this devastating disease.”

As the new test reduces the number of required reagents by incorporating a universal virus capture reagent, the process of diagnosis is made simpler – especially in the case of emerging strains – which would be an obvious benefit for livestock owners and the vets who support them and their animals.

No animals used

Another benefit is animals are not needed to produce bovine integrin αvβ6. This is a huge step towards supporting the three Rs agenda (refine, replace and reduce) in science regarding the use of animals, to which the institute is strongly committed, said a spokesman from Pirbright.

Further experiments are needed to optimise and validate the test for routine FMDV diagnosis, but it is hoped bovine integrin αvβ6 could eventually be used in the FMDV diagnostic kits, which the institute distributes all over the world.

  • Read the full story in the 10 October issue of Veterinary Times.
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