Foot-and-mouth disease virus

Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) infects cloven hoofed (two-toed) mammals such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and various wildlife species. The virus belongs to the family Picornaviridae, genus Aphthovirus. FMDV is a non-enveloped virus with a single stranded RNA genome. There are seven types (serotypes), that are subject to high mutation rates which constantly generate new FMDV variants.

  • Foot-and-mouth disease is a notifiable disease and should be reported.
    Please see the Defra website for advice on how to spot and report the disease.

Associated diseases:

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is one of the most contagious animal diseases. The 7 serotypes all cause similar clinical signs which can occur 2-14 days after being infected.

Clinical signs:

  • Fever
  • Blisters on the feet, mouth, nose, muzzle and teats causing lameness and salivation
  • Reduced appetite due to painful blisters in the mouth, causing milk drop and weight loss
  • Abortion
  • Death can also occur in young animals
  • In a susceptible population a large proportion of the herd or flock will show clinical signs of FMD

Disease transmission:

FMD is highly contagious and is passed on by healthy animals coming in to direct contact with infected animals. Indirect contact with contaminated objects (fomites) such as vehicles, clothing, footwear, bedding etc. can also spread FMD. Consuming contaminated feed or milk can transmit the virus as well as through respiratory aerosols - the virus can be carried on the wind and travel fairly large distances, even over sea.

Disease prevalence:

FMD occurs in parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and parts of South America and cause huge economic losses when an outbreak occurs in countries free from FMD.

Impact for Society – what are we doing?

The Pirbright Institute is the World Reference Laboratory for FMD and work is ongoing to improve diagnostics (especially in the field) and our understanding of the transmission and immune responses to infection.

There are vaccines available for FMD but they are serotype specific; therefore a vaccine against one serotype won’t necessarily provide protection against another. The Institute is working on novel vaccines which may provide protection against multiple types.

By imaging the protein structure of the FMD outer proteins our scientists have been able to replicate and strengthen the virus structure without needing to use any genetic material. This means that the stronger synthetic structures can be used in vaccines without the need to keep them refrigerated, and without the fear that the virus can mutate back to a virulent form. This also helps to distinguish between animals that have been vaccinated and animals that have been infected.   


Downloadable factsheet

Research papers

Ryoo S, Kang H, Lim DR, Kim JM, Won Y, Kim JY, King DP, Nardo AD, Cha SH (2024)

Frontiers 11
Elahir YM, Ishag HZA, Wadsworth J, Hicks HM, Knowles NJ, Mioulet V, King DP, Mohamed MS, Bensalah OK, Yusof MF, Gasim EFM, Hammadi ZMA, Shah AAM, Abdelmagid YA, El Gahlan MAM, Kassim MF, Kayaf K, Zahran A, Nuaimat MMA (2024)

veterinary sciences 11 (1)
Al-Rawahi WA, Elshafie EI, Baqir S, Al-Ansari A, Wadsworth J, Hicks HM, Knowles NJ, Nardo AD, King DP, Zientara S, Salloom FA, Sangula A, Bernelin-Cottet C, Bakka-Kassimi L, Riyami BA (2024)

Preventive Veterinary Medicine 223
Giorgakoudi K, Schley D, Juleff N, Gubbins S, Ward J (2023)

Mathematical Biosciences 363 , 109052


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