Method developed to detect FMDV in the environment

Sampling the environment is an effective way to detect Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), according to a paper published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The sampling method, swabbing environmental surfaces where livestock are kept, can be easily performed and can detect viral genetic material that can persist in the environment well beyond the time when livestock cease manifesting clinical signs of disease. Unlike taking clinical samples, those taking samples need not be able to recognize clinical signs of disease. Thus, smallholder farmers in developing countries could take the samples in lieu of veterinarians.

In the study, the investigators took swabs from numerous environmental surfaces within each of 24 smallholder farms at nine different sites in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, where local veterinary technicians had identified clinical signs of foot-and-mouth disease in livestock. The investigators took swabs from sheds where livestock were kept, areas around the house where they were tied up, and other locations where the animals had been. They sent these samples for evaluation at The Pirbright Institute (UK), where researchers were able to detect viral genetic material in positive samples.

FMDV is able to survive long periods of time in the environment in the right conditions (up to three months depending on environmental factors such as pH, temperature and relative humidity), and so sampling areas where infected animals may have shed virus allows scientists to detect the presence of FMD even if the animals on the farm are no longer showing clinical signs.

This is equally important in areas that have FMD free status as well as those where FMD is endemic such as parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Novel surveillance techniques can help support a robust response to outbreaks in FMD free countries, but can also be implemented in endemic countries as part of surveillance programmes to supplement current information about the spread of FMD.

In the future the researchers hope to be able to combine swabbing with the use of portable diagnostic tools to enable rapid detection of FMDV in the field.

Read article: Evaluation of environmental sampling as a low technology method for surveillance of Foot-and-mouth disease virus in an endemic area by Claire Colenutt, Emma Brown, Noel Nelson, Jemma Wadsworth, Jenny Maud, Bishnu Adhikari, Sharmila Chapagain Kafle, Mukul Upadhyaya, Samjhana Kafle Pandey, David J Paton, Keith Sumption and Simon Gubbins, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, online 29 June 2018, doi: 10.1128/AEM.00686-18

[SOURCE: American Society for Microbiology & The Pirbright Institute]