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Why do scientists tend not to notice what others in other countries are doing in the field of research?

August 2009 ~ Last week, a report that researchers fom the Veterinary Institute at Denmark's Technical University had - as the journalist put it - "developed a new test for foot and mouth that can save millions of animals" raised eyebrows because, of course, tests to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated animals have existed for some time. The report http://politiken.dk/newsinenglish/article774156.ece   of August 24 2009, asserted:

"Although anti-body tests are not new, they have not previously been able to determine whether cattle have developed anti-bodies from the sickness itself, or whether the anti-bodies are the result of a vaccination."

This seems oddly misleading. The detection of antibodies to non-structural proteins (NSPs) has been the preferred diagnostic method to distinguish virus infected animals from vaccinated animals for several years - and differentiating NSP tests for FMD vaccine are firmly established . Uruguay used one of them (the Panaftosa test) to demonstrate freedom of FMD infection with vaccination which was internationally accepted in 2001.

Description of Intervet's Chekit-FMD-3ABC http://www.foot-and-mouth-disease.com/Product_information/Checkit_FMD_test.asp was last updated in 2008 and reports the following benefits when used with NSP-free vaccines:

Benefits of the marker system (i.e the use of NSP-free vaccines in combination with the 3ABC test):

  1. Eradication of infected herds and the protection of non-infected herds in countries where FMD is endemic.
  2. Vaccination can be used to reduce virus circulation, authorities are still capable of monitoring the spread of the FMD virus.
  3. Massive preventive culling of healthy animals is no longer necessary, culling reduced to infected farms. 
  4. Animals from vaccinated farms not carrying antibodies against the 3ABC protein, do not present a risk for further spread of the disease and can enter the food chain.
  5. The 3ABC marker system allows vaccination of valuable animals (breeding stock, rare breeds, game parks, zoos) without hampering Government disease control schemes.    

In 2007, the first FMDV DIVA test that uses both recombinant antibody and antigen derived from bacterial expression systems was developed in Australia by Janine Muller( http://www.scienceinpublic.com/sciencenow/2008/janine_muller.htm ) She developed the test with CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) colleagues while completing her PhD. She is now a research scientist with the Victorian Department of Primary Industries. It is described as "inexpensive" and not requiring infectious virus to produce the reagents.  

One wonders why the reporting of the Danish research did not make clear what previous work has been achieved - or at least indicate in what ways, if any, the new Danish work is different. Yet many sites, such as FMD News at UC Davis and The Cattle Site ( http://www.thecattlesite.com/footandmouth/ ) have simply reported the Danish research without comment.

Although the repeating of research may in some ways be beneficial in order to ensure accuracy, it seems odd that centres of scientific research in different countries seem more keen to reinvent the wheel than to cooperate and share advances so that their work can be used in the field - which, after all, must be its raison d'etre.