Developing New Vaccines Against FMD

GLOBAL - A sum of £1.3 million has been awarded to an international collaborative group of research institutions and industry to develop improved vaccines for foot and mouth disease (FMD).
calendar icon 6 April 2010
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Vaccines based on inactivated strains of the foot and mouth disease virus have been successful at controlling infections in the developed world but high manufacturing costs limit their use in developing countries.

A consortium of reasearchers will use this Translation Award and funding to develop genetically modified FMD virus vaccines that can be produced cost-effectively on an industrial scale.

The international group brings together researchers from the Institute for Animal Health (UK), the University of Oxford, the Agricultural Research Council-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (South Africa), the Agricultural Research Service (USA), the USDA - Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit at Plum Island and Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health (the Netherlands).

FMD is an infectious disease affecting cloven-hoofed animals, in particular cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer. The disease is serious for animal health and for the economics of the livestock industry. While FMD is not normally fatal to adult animals, it is debilitating and causes significant loss of productivity; for example milk yields may drop or the animals may become lame. In young animals it can be fatal on a large scale.

The main problem with current FMD vaccines arises from the instability of the virus. Manufacturers have to compensate for this instability, which is expensive and reduces the overall vaccine yield. The virus is also prone to mutation, which means that new vaccines have to be continually developed.

Developing new vaccines involves adapting a strain of virus from the field to be able to infect the specialised cells that are used for the vaccine manufacturing process. But in doing so, the virus can change in other ways such that it no longer resembles the field virus and doesn't offer protection against the disease.

"The consortium will capitalise on the expertise of the participating organisations to develop a generic procedure whereby strains of FMDV can be modified to make virus particles that are both more stable and able to attach well to the cells that are used to make FMD vaccines on a commercial scale", explains Dr Bryan Charleston at the Institute for Animal Health, who leads the partnership.

"By increasing the efficacy, improving stability and increasing the production yield, we hope to make FMD vaccines that are more cost-effective for widespread use."

Richard Seabrook, Head of Business Development at the Wellcome Trust said: "This much needed development should help to reduce the huge economic burden that the disease places on the farming industry, particularly in the developing world."

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