Foot and mouth disease control: the next steps

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine
A J Beale

......the logical way to control the disease is by routine prophylactic immunization. This is not a simple matter, but fortunately there is a long favourable experience of using vaccines in this way-for example, in Continental Europe until 1991, and in South America.

The first consideration is what strain to use. In Europe it would probably be sufficient at present to use the current OManisa vaccine strain. Prevalent strains in different areas are monitored by the World Reference Centre at Pirbright, and the strains in vaccines can be adjusted accordingly-much as happens with influenza vaccines.

The threat of bioterrorism is a different matter. The most prudent course, probably, is to immunize routinely against the strains picked up by the surveillance system, since these will be the easiest for a terrorist to acquire, but to have stocks of other types available for an emergency. The implementation of a vaccine policy should not pose great difficulty; farmers are accustomed to immunizing their animals against various diseases.

To be successful, it would have to be compulsory and a subsidy for farmers would be reasonable since vaccination would represent a form of insurance for the country as a whole. The tourist industry in particular would benefit if foot and mouth outbreaks became a thing of the past.

This vaccination policy would, of course, have to be adopted throughout the European Union; and it might even become part of a global exercise on the pattern of the Expanded Programme on Immunization. Such a programme would demand methods of serological surveillance that distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals as well as rapid diagnostic tests for use on the farm2. Although there is no real prospect of eradication, because of the reservoir in wild animals, the disease might be confined to those areas where farm livestock have contact with naturally infected cloven-hoofed wild animals. This leaves the question of bioterrorism; but at least we have highly effective vaccines at our disposal.


Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Foot-and-Mouth Disease 1968 Part Two, Cmnd 4225. London: HM Stationery Office,1969 Beale AJ. Foot and mouth disease: why not vaccinate? J R Soc Med 2001; 94:263 -4[Full Text] Jan 19