Virus excretion from foot-and-mouth disease virus carrier cattle and their potential role in causing new outbreaks.

The role of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) carrier cattle in causing new outbreaks is still a matter of debate and it is important to find out these carrier animals by post-outbreak serosurveillance to declare freedom from FMDV infection. In this study we explore the differences in viral shedding between carrier and non-carrier animals, quantify the transmission rate of FMDV infection from carriers to susceptible animals and identify potential viral determinants of viral persistence. We collected nasal and saliva samples from 32 vaccinated and 7 unvaccinated FMDV carrier cattle and 48 vaccinated and 13 unvaccinated non-carrier cattle (total n=100) during the acute phase of infection (up to 28 days post-challenge) and then from limited number of animals up to a maximum 168 days post-challenge. We demonstrate that unvaccinated cattle excrete significantly higher levels of virus for longer periods compared with vaccinated cattle and this is independent of whether or not they subsequently become carriers. By introducing naive cattle in to the FMDV carrier population we show the risk of new outbreaks is clearly very low in controlled conditions, although there could still be a potential threat of these carrier animals causing new outbreaks in the field situation. Finally, we compared the complete genome sequences of viruses from carrier cattle with the challenge virus and found no evidence for viral determinants of the carrier state.

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