In the last 15 years there has been a concerning increase in the spread of the livestock viral disease, peste des petits ruminants (PPR). The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) have created a strategy for global eradication, in which the support of PPR experts, including scientists from The Pirbright Institute, will be essential.
Pirbright was heavily involved in the FAO and OIE campaign to eliminate rinderpest, which in 2011 was formally declared eradicated, making it only the second virus to achieve this status after smallpox. This experience, coupled with the fact that rinderpest is closely related to PPR, well positions Pirbright’s scientific experts to aid in the fight against this damaging disease.
PPR is now endemic in over 70 countries, among them some of the poorest communities in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where people rely on their livestock for food and income. Literally translating to ‘plague of small ruminants’, the PPR virus infects animals such as goats and sheep, costing $1.45-$2.1 billion (USD) in losses annually, disrupting the economies of developing countries where subsistence farming is a large source of income.
PPR experts from Pirbright, FAO and MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, have explored the biology of this disease, and identified vital areas that must be better understood if PPR is to be eradicated. Pirbright’s Dr Dalan Bailey has recently collated this information and published a review paper in the Journal of General Virology.
Dr Bailey, leader of the Viral Glycoproteins group, said: “We hope that this review will highlight the most pressing issues and trigger debate amongst the scientific community, but most importantly encourage researchers to take action. With so many factors to consider, it is no surprise that a global effort is required for successful PPR eradication.”
The experts highlighted gaps in three main research areas; fundamental research, which involves understanding more about the PPR virus and how it infects susceptible animals, as well as vaccines and diagnostics. The researchers also urged their peers to investigate other viruses that might invade a vacated niche, should PPR be eradicated.
As the global human population expands, so too does the need for animal products such as meat and dairy. It is expected that the demand for sheep and goat produce alone will rise 177% by 2030. The eradication of a disease which currently threatens 80% of the global sheep and goat populations is therefore crucial.
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About The Pirbright Institute
The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience.
With an annual income of nearly £26.1 million from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £5 million strategic investment from BBSRC during 2016-2017, the Institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.
For more information about The Pirbright Institute see: www.pirbright.ac.uk
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
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