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Research project to create foot-and-mouth vaccine

20th November 2012

A study, headed by St Andrews University, will look for ways of creating a new vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease.

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The research project, which has £5.6 million in funding, also involves Leeds, Dundee and Edinburgh universities, and the Pirbright Institute.

The foot-and-mouth virus is highly contagious and affects cattle, goats, sheep and pigs. The last outbreak in the UK in 2001 meant millions of animals had to be killed.

The current vaccines used to treat the virus have to be kept in a refrigerator and administered multiple times, which means they are hard to transport or use in Africa, which has terrible problems with the disease.

The £5.6 million funding comes from the the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the project will last five years.

Professor Martin Ryan, of translational virology in the School of Biology at St Andrews University, said: "One approach will be to alter the virus to make new strains that can infect animals without causing disease."

"These weakened viruses can prompt an immune response from the infected animal, giving it protection from subsequent infection." 

The team will also use their understanding of how the virus "grows in cells" to create a new kind of virus that would only be able to enlarge in "specially designed helper cells", and therefore could not grow in animals.

 

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