Rinderpest virus

Rinderpest virus (RPV) belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family, genus Morbillivirus; it is closely related to the virus that causes the human disease measles. The virus has a membrane envelope and a nucleocapsid which contains the single-stranded RNA genome. Rinderpest is primarily a disease of domestic cattle, buffalo and yaks, although the disease has also been reported in various wildlife species such as eland, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu and various antelopes. A 20-year global effort to eradicate the disease has been successful, with no case of rinderpest seen since 2001. The final declaration of global freedom from rinderpest was 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 in the UK.
  • For more information on identifying rinderpest, see the Rinderpest Vigilance pages of the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE).

Associated diseases:

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

Clinical signs:

  • Fever
  • Discharge from nose and eyes
  • Necrotic lesions on the gums, lips and tongue
  • Other damage in the upper and lower digestive tracts
  • Enteritis followed by diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Death

Disease transmission:

Rinderpest virus can be transmitted through direct contact of infected and susceptible animals, via aerosolised bodily fluids over short distances, or through contaminated feed, water, pastures and animal housing. 

Disease prevalence:

Declared globally eradicated in 2011 (no cases since 2001)

Impact for Society – what are we doing?

As the World Reference Laboratory for rinderpest, The Pirbright Institute played a key role in aiding its eradication, working closely with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The Institute developed the main tools used for disease diagnosis and surveillance and worked with national laboratories in affected countries to ensure those tools were used effectively, as well as providing Reference Laboratory services for confirmatory diagnosis and sequencing where required, enabling affected countries to map the movement of the virus during outbreaks. The Institute also carried out basic research on the biology of the virus and development of novel vaccines and provided support for national diagnostic services and help with risk analysis and contingency plans in the event of further outbreaks.

This work, as part of a global effort involving mass and targeted vaccination programmes and large-scale surveillance, resulted in the eradication of the disease from all affected countries, with the OIE formally declaring the eradication of rinderpest in June 2011. Rinderpest thereby became the second virus disease to be globally eradicated, after smallpox.

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

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