Modified FMD Virus Allowed for Study

Perdue OKs Study of Modified, Non-Infectious Foot and Mouth Disease Virus on US Mainland

OMAHA (DTN) -- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has authorized the movement of a modified, non-infectious version of the foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to the U.S. mainland for continued vaccine development and study, according to a news release issued by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Thursday.

While the modified FMD virus is unable to cause disease and presents no risk of transmitting the disease, federal law still requires the secretary of agriculture to approval the virus' movement.

Identifying a vaccine that uses the modified virus will enable USDA to more quickly source and acquire FMD vaccine in the event of an outbreak of the disease, APHIS said in its news release. With this announcement, vaccine companies may now apply for USDA permits to continue their work with this specific modified, non-infectious FMD virus in the U.S. All permits granted would include appropriate biocontainment and use restrictions, and may be revoked if warranted.

The live FMD virus was previously not allowed anywhere in the country except at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, which is located near the northeast coast of Long Island in New York state, where it was held and worked with under strict biocontainment procedures in order to protect the nation's livestock, according to the news release.

With advances in technology, it is now possible to genetically modify the virus so that it is non-infectious. With this added protection, it is now possible to allow vaccine development within the U.S., rather than relying upon overseas sources.

FMD is a highly contagious viral foreign animal disease that affects domestic livestock, including cattle, swine, sheep, goat and domestic cervids (hoofed mammals such as deer and elk). It can cause reduced milk and meat productivity, illness and death.

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