Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus

Volume 288 of the series Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology pp 1-8

Introduction and History of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus

  • B. W. J. MahyAffiliated withCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Infectious Diseases

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Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has been recognized as a significant epidemic disease threatening the cattle industry since the sixteenth century, and in the late nineteenth century it was shown by Loeffler and Frosch to be caused by a submicroscopic, filterable transmissible agent, smaller than any known bacteria. The agent causing FMD was thus the first virus of vertebrates to be discovered, soon after the discovery of tobacco mosaic virus of plants. It was not until 1920 that a convenient animal model for the study of FMD virus was established by Waldmann and Pape, using guinea-pigs, and with the later development of in vitro cell culture systems for the virus, the chemical and physical properties of FMD virus were elucidated during the remainder of the twentieth century, culminating in 1989 with a complete description of the three-dimensional structure of the virion. FMD virus is classified as a species in the Aphthovirus genus of the family Picornaviridae. The virus is acid labile, and the genome RNA contains a characteristic tract of polyC located about 360 nucleotides from the 5′ terminus. Seven main serotypes exist throughout the world, as well as numerous subtypes. The World Reference Laboratory for FMD is located at Pirbright, Surrey, UK and undertakes surveillance of FMD epidemics by serotyping as well as by genotyping isolates of the virus. A major epidemic of FMD occurred in the UK in 2001 and was caused by a virulent strain of FMD virus with origins in Asia. The advantages and some disadvantages of controlling FMD outbreaks by vaccination are discussed.