The Pirbright Institute, along with colleagues at the Universities of St Andrews, Leeds, Edinburgh and Dundee, will take part in a £5.6M BBSRC-funded project to develop new methods for controlling foot-and-mouth disease.
Professor Terry Jackson, Dr Don King and Dr Toby Tuthill from The Pirbright Institute will be part of the project.Professor Jackson said “One of humanity’s biggest challenges in coming years will be to meet a growing demand for food. Animal diseases have a major impact on the productivity of the livestock industry and safeguarding animal welfare will be a major component of maximising food production.”
The researchers will investigate how the virus interacts with the host cell to achieve its replication and will harness this knowledge to develop a new generation of more effective vaccines and improved diagnostic methods.
FMDV causes one of the most economically important viral diseases of domestic livestock including cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Since the disease is endemic in many countries, transmission by international travel and trade presents an on-going potential threat to the UK. It is one of the most contagious mammalian viruses and can infect several species of wildlife, greatly increasing the difficulty of disease control – further complicated by the existence of 7 distinct serotypes with numerous strains of the virus.
New developments in methods of studying the molecular biology of this virus, together with the development of new state-of-the art facilities at The Pirbright Institute, present an exciting opportunity to transform our understanding of how this virus replicates in cells, to modify the virus genome and to improve diagnosis – all designed to improve the control of FMDV.
Lead researcher Professor Martin Ryan of the University of St Andrews, said “One approach will be to alter the virus to make new strains that can infect animals without causing disease. These weakened viruses can prompt an immune response from the infected animal, giving it protection from subsequent infection.”
The researchers will also attempt to use knowledge of how the virus replicates in cells to make novel viruses that can only replicate in specially designed “helper” cells, meaning the virus couldn’t then replicate in animals. This would make the use of existing conventional vaccines a much safer process.
Professor Ryan added “Success would stimulate the routine use of vaccine to control FMDV around the globe. This would reduce the global incidence of FMD with enormous economic and social value worldwide.”