Scientists at The Pirbright Institute have successfully validated two new portable tests for the diagnosis of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). One test confirms the presence of FMD virus (FMDV), and the other is the first portable test able to differentiate between the four FMD types prevalent in Africa. The commercially available kits developed with Tetracore were taken to Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya to confirm their effectiveness the field.
There are seven different types of FMDV (called serotypes), each of which needs its own vaccine. Accurate diagnostics are therefore vital to ensure the right vaccine is administered to protect against the serotype circulating in a particular area. Until recently, field tests were not able to tell the difference between the serotypes, they could only give a positive or negative result as to whether FMD was present in the sample.
Lead researcher Dr Veronica Fowler said: “We know that the biggest hurdle to overcome when tackling FMD is getting a quick and accurate diagnosis of which serotype is present. The main issue is that many countries currently battling FMD outbreaks do not have labs with the facilities or expertise to test for the virus.
“This is why we have taken a lab test and reformatted it to suit the field. We simplified the reagents into pellets, so that users need only add water and the sample, which can then be placed in a mobile PCR machine. The machine can then identify any of the four FMD serotypes present in Africa.”
This field-ready diagnostics kit has many characteristics that make it ideally adapted for work in some of the most remote places. The machine is battery powered and can process eight samples at once, whilst the pellets for the test do not need to be refrigerated, therefore saving on transportation costs and maintenance. The kit is so simple that users do not have to be highly trained, and the products are available commercially, so are easily accessible.
The diagnostics are also as sensitive as the equivalent techniques used in the laboratory, and can test epithelial, serum, mouth or throat fluid samples from animals. The range of samples that can be used along with the test sensitivity allows the detection of FMDV in animals even if they are not displaying clinical signs, which is vital for the control of outbreaks.
Rolf Rauh from Tetracore said: “The Pirbright Institute and Tetracore have collaborated to demonstrate that the field portable PCR machine can be used to identify and sub-type foot-and-mouth disease viral RNA in animal samples collected and tested in the field.
“Rapid and accurate point-of-care field identification of FMD and its subtype are essential for mounting effective control efforts to stop animal movement before the virus has an opportunity to spread further. A project of this type could not have been realised without a close collaboration between the FMD World Reference Laboratory at Pirbright and an industry partner, both contributing their expertise to provide a new, highly innovative solution to FMD”
This research was published in Transboundary and Emerging Diseases and was funded by The Pirbright Institute Business Development Fund (Grant Number: 289364), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (Grant Number: 289364) and the European Union (Grant number: 289364).
Find out more about FMD in our short animation.