Rinderpest virus

Rinderpest virus infects cattle, buffalo and yaks but animals such as eland, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu and various antelopes can also carry the virus. Rinderpest virus belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family, genus Morbillivirus. The virus has an envelope and capsid which encase a single stranded RNA genome. A global effort to eradicate Rinderpest was successful in 2011.

  • Rinderpest is a notifiable disease and should be reported.
    Please see the Defra website for advice on how to spot and report the disease.

Associated diseases:

Domestic cattle, water buffalo and yaks are very susceptible to rinderpest, with mortality reaching 80 to 90% when infected with the more virulent strains of the virus.

Clinical signs:

  • Fever
  • Discharges from nose and eyes
  • Ulceration
  • Other damage in the upper digestive and respiratory tracts
  • Enteritis followed by diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Death

Disease transmission:

Rinderpest can be transmitted through consumption of contaminated water, direct contact and via aerosolised bodily fluids over short distances.

Disease prevalence:

Eradicated since 2011

Impact for Society – what are we doing?

As the World Reference Laboratory for rinderpest, The Pirbright Institute played a key role in aiding it’s eradication. Working closely with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), all measures needed for enduring success were incorporated.

These firstly included a science-based understanding of why the disease was still present, including factors unique to each region, for example, wildlife reservoirs. Mass vaccination with quality assured vaccines was also a key factor, along with the training and management of national veterinary services to not only apply vaccines but also to undertake thorough surveillance. Support for national diagnostic services, proper risk analysis and contingency plans in the event of further outbreaks were also employed.

All these factors together resulted in FAO formally declaring the eradication of rinderpest in June 2011, becoming the second virus to be globally eradicated after small pox.

In the post-eradication era, Pirbright is helping to ensure the world stays rinderpest free. The Institute is one of the few Rinderpest Holding Facilities designated by the OIE and FAO, and has led the 'Sequence and Destroy' project to eliminate rinderpest samples. 

Research papers

King S, Rajko-Nenow P, Ropiak H M, Ribeca P, Batten C, Baron M D (2020)

Scientific Reports 10 (1) , 6563
Hamilton K, Baron M D, Matsuo K, Visser D (2017)

Revue Scientifique et Technique 36 (2) , 579-588
Brüning-Richardson A, Parida S, Banyard A C (2016)

Mononegaviruses of veterinary importance. Volume 2: Molecular epidemiology and control (edited by M Munir, CABI) , 81-97
Lung O, Furukawa-Stoffer T, Burton Hughes K, Pasick J, King D P, Hodko D (2016)

Transboundary and Emerging Diseases 64 (6) , 1929-1934
Logan N, Dundon W G, Diallo A, Baron M D, James Nyarobi M, Cleaveland S, Keyyu J, Fyumagwa R, Hosie M J, Willett B J (2016)

Vaccine 34 (47) , 5736-5743


Trim content

® The Pirbright Institute 2022 | A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 559784. The Institute is also a registered charity.