Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), also known as goat plague, is highly contagious and infects small ruminants such as sheep and goats as well as a number of wild small ruminants, such as ibex and gazelles. Cattle and pigs can be infected but don’t develop any clinical signs. The PPR virus (PPRV) belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family, genus Morbillivirus, and is closely related to canine distemper virus and the human pathogen, measles virus. The virus is enveloped and has a nucleocapsid that contains a single-stranded RNA genome.
- Peste des petits ruminants is a notifiable disease and should be reported.
Please see the Defra website for advice on how to spot and report the disease.
PPRV causes disease with an array of clinical signs. It also causes immunosuppression, which makes affected animals more likely to pick up other infections.
Clinical signs of PPR:
- Eye and nasal discharges
- Sores in the mouth
- Respiratory signs (coughing and pneumonia)
- Death, with case fatality rates as high as 90% (though more commonly around 20%)
PPR is mainly spread during close contact when a susceptible animal inhales the virus from infected animals’ coughing and sneezing. Transmission can also occur indirectly through contact with infected objects (fomites) such as feed troughs, bedding etc. Sources of PPRV include secretions from the eyes, nose, and mouth of infected animals, as well as their faeces.
The disease is widespread in many parts of the world including most of Africa, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, etc.) and China. The only confirmed outbreak of PPR in Europe was in Georgia in 2016.
Impact for Society – what are we doing?
PPR has a major economic impact on people who keep sheep and goats as livestock, who are almost always among the poorest livestock keepers. There is currently a global programme to eradicate PPR, led by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), and the Pirbright Institute is working to assist this programme. While there are effective vaccines available to prevent PPR, they do not provide a DIVA (Distinguish Infected and Vaccinated Animals) capability. Work at The Pirbright Institute is ongoing to develop and validate DIVA vaccines and to improve current diagnostics, such as the lateral flow assay for on-site testing.
In addition, as an OIE Reference Laboratory for PPR, we work to help other laboratories with their diagnosis and surveillance, spreading best practice and continuously monitoring and improving diagnostics. As part of this effort, we are members of a global network of PPR diagnostic laboratories. We are also engaged in several collaborative projects with international groups of scientists.