Researchers seek to improve F.M.D. detection, control

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — Technology being developed and tested by Agricultural Research Service scientists could improve detection and control of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle, according to an article by Laura McGinnis on the A.R.S. information staff, in the April 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

One study mentioned in the article used infrared cameras to detect elevated hoof temperatures, a symptom of F.M.D. in cattle. It was conducted by research leader Luis Rodriguez, microbiologist Juan Pacheco and research fellow Kaitlin Rainwater-Lovett with A.R.S. at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center at Orient Point, N.Y., in collaboration with Craig Packer, a University of Minnesota biologist.

Infrared technology could detect elevated temperatures up to two days before cattle develop clinical signs. Less expensive and faster than existing screening methods, this technology could allow scientists and veterinarians to identify potentially infected cattle in large groups, without examining animals individually, according to the report.

The A.R.S. scientists have also collaborated with Tetracore, a biotechnology company, to develop a test to detect R.N.A. from the F.M.D. virus in less than two hours. In the event of an F.M.D. emergency, laboratories throughout the United States could use this technology to rapidly diagnose samples.

Marvin Grubman, an A.R.S. chemist, and his colleagues are making improvements to the F.M.D. vaccine they developed, which can be produced without using infectious F.M.D. materials. As a result, this means it can be produced on the U.S. mainland without the need for expensive, high-containment production facilities.

Tests show the vaccine becomes effective just seven days after it's been administered. Even though it is one of the fastest vaccines available, the researchers wanted faster protection since much can happen in seven days, particularly during an outbreak. In a recent study, Mr. Grubman found that proteins called interferons could offer protection while animals are developing an antibody response to the vaccine, increasing their resistance.

A.R.S., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and biopharmaceutical company GenVec Inc., Gaithersburg, Md., are also collaborating to develop the new F.M.D. vaccine to include in the U.S. veterinary vaccine stockpile — as well as working to combine the interferons and the F.M.D. vaccine so they can be administered concurrently.

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