New research on persistence of highly contagious FMD


The Pirbright Institute

The Cattle Site - 11 October 2021


A major new study, featured on the cover of Science Magazine, undertaken by scientists at The Pirbright Institute, Oregon State University, Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute and SANParks, Veterinary Wildlife Services, Kruger National Park explores the mechanisms at play that enable the persistence of highly infectious pathogens in their host populations, a major problem in endemic disease ecology.


The research focused on highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease viruses (FMDV) persistence in their wildlife reservoir, African buffalo. Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is endemic in many low-middle income countries creating an economic burden and threatening food security. FMD does not cause disease in buffalo, but in cloven-footed animals like cattle it causes painful blisters on the mouth and feet resulting in weight loss and reduction in milk yield.


To solve the puzzle of how some contagious diseases are able to persist and continue circulating in a population long after an initial outbreak when the disease first burns through a pool of susceptible hosts, scientists set up experiments in the field to investigate the transmission of three main strains of FMDV (SAT1, SAT2 and SAT3) in buffalo herds in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Researchers sampled blood and tissue from a wild herd at two monthly intervals over a period of three years to test for FMDV while simultaneously recording infection dynamics in a captive group of experimentally infected buffalo over a six month period.


The aim was to work out what the virus was doing in between outbreaks and how...