Cheaper foot-and-mouth test reduces small animal testing

A more cost-effective foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) diagnosis that works with less testing on small animals has been revealed by the Pirbright Institute.

Still to be developed for industry use, the test promises to be “cheaper and easier” by only requiring one protein to identify all strains of FMDV and should not need live animals for antibody sampling.

See also: 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak remembered

The highly contagious viral disease,  found in Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East, comprises seven key serotypes that mutate rapidly, meaning fast diagnosis is critical, experts say. 

The breakthrough involves creating large amounts of the protein bovine integrin αvβ6 through a fast technique called transient cell transfection. 

Previously, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay tests used antibodies from rabbits and guinea pigs to bind to the FMDV, enabling identification.

Gareth Shimmon, one of the lead researchers on the study, said: “The ability to rapidly produce a cost-effective universal diagnostic reagent for FMDV 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.”

Most recently UK farms were hit by FMDV in 2001, when 2,026 cases were reported, and in 2007 in Surrey.