Foot-and-mouth disease virus: prospects for using knowledge of virus biology to improve control of this continuing global threat

Understanding of the biology of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) has grown considerably since the nucleotide sequence of the viral RNA was determined. The ability to manipulate the intact genome and also to express specific parts of the genome individually has enabled detailed analyses of viral components, both RNA and protein. Such studies have identified the requirements for specific functional elements for virus replication and pathogenicity. Furthermore, information about the functions of individual virus proteins has enabled the rational design of cDNA cassettes to express non-infectious empty capsid particles that can induce protective immunity in the natural host animals and thus represent new vaccine candidates. Similarly, attempts to block specific virus activities using antiviral agents have also been performed. However, currently, only the well-established, chemically inactivated FMDV vaccines are commercially available and suitable for use to combat this important disease of livestock animals. These vaccines, despite certain shortcomings, have been used very successfully (e.g. in Europe) to control the disease but it still remains endemic in much of Africa, southern Asia and the Middle East. Hence there remains a significant risk of reintroduction of the disease into highly susceptible animal populations with enormous economic consequences.

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