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USDA Participates in Worldwide Research Effort Against
April 29, 2004
WASHINGTON, Apr. 29 U.S.
Department of Agriculture officials and scientists are hosting the Foot
and Mouth Disease Global Research Alliance here today and tomorrow to discuss
collaborative research to develop better vaccines and antiviral agents against
the virus that causes foot and mouth disease (FMD).
"This meeting is
important to future research and prevention efforts," said Agriculture
Secretary Ann M. Veneman. "By bringing together world-class research
scientists, we can more effectively focus on cooperative research efforts to
help fight this disease."
USDA and the cooperating research
organizations have formed the FMD Global Research Alliance to provide tools to
countries affected with FMD to slow down the virus and to ensure that FMD-free
countries do not have outbreaks of the disease. The alliance includes the Pirbright
Laboratory of the United Kingdom's Institute for Animal Health; the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at
Geelong, part of Australia's Commonwealth
Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation; Canada's National
Centre for Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory; and Kenya's International Livestock Research
USDA's part of the research will be carried out by
scientists from the department's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service (APHIS), working at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center,
located off the northeastern tip of Long Island, N.Y. The United States has
not had an outbreak of FMD since 1929.
FMD is a highly contagious
disease of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, swine and sheep. Humans
cannot get the disease, but can carry the virus from affected animals to
unaffected ones. Animals with FMD usually do not die, but the disease is very
debilitating and the animals' production can be permanently impaired.
USDA researchers will work on developing a new vaccine against FMD and
will lead the effort to identify antiviral compounds to quickly stop virus
replication. Current vaccines can take up to two weeks to fully protect
animals from FMD infection. USDA scientists are trying to decrease that time
to several days, which could save millions of animals and billions of dollars
if an outbreak were to occur.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief in-house scientific research agency. APHIS is responsible
for protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, administering the
Animal Welfare Act, and carrying out wildlife damage management activities.