U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have developed a new technology that will mean that foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccines can be produced safely in the future.
Whilst the U.S. has not suffered an outbreak of FMD since 1929, this highly contagious disease, affecting cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. is still a threat in many other countries, including the U.K.
Microbiologist Elizabeth Rieder and colleagues have identified a DNA sequence in the virus that can be removed, making the FMD virus harmless to animals, but still allowing it to grow in cell culture. This altered FMD virus has allowed them to learn more about how the virus functions and in particular how the virus amplifies itself, interacts with host animals, and inhibits the animal's defense mechanisms.
The method was used to produce a novel marker FMD vaccine using an attenuated, or weakened, FMD virus that does not cause disease which carries much less risk than traditional vaccine production methods using naturally occurring FMD virus strains.
In addition, the adapted virus used in the new vaccine is labeled so that it can be told apart from other naturally occurring viruses found in outbreaks.
A patent is pending on the new technology and a private company is in the process of further developing it vaccine production.
Story source: ARS news, 24 Oct 2013