Researchers at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH), Pirbright are apparently close to a breakthrough which could stop outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease turning into unnecessary and expensive slaughter.
Government policy in the UK in 2001 was to slaughter animals within 24 hours of a vet diagnosis based on symptoms of FMD. For confirmation, samples were dispatched to the IAH’s Pirbright Lab, in Surrey which usually took a day to arrive. At this stage, a mass culling would have occurred. At around 23% of the premises where the culling took place, FMD was not found.
According to Juliet Dukes, a molecular biologist and senior research scientist at Pirbright, “we learned from 2001 that we need a fast and reliable diagnostic technique to be used by non-specialists on the farms where an infection was suspected”.
Small traces FMD
She continued stating that devices need to be sensitive to detect even tiny traces of the FMD virus during the early stages of infection in order to prevent the consequences of a false negative result.
In addition, diagnostic equipment must be cheap in order to be disposed after each test to prevent time consuming sterilisation.
Dr Dukes is part of a team developing a technique called Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) for FMD detection in the field.