A newly created vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is the first of its kind to be licensed by the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics. The novel approach taken to create this vaccine makes possible its manufacture in the US. The vaccine was originally developed by Dr. Marvin Grubman of the Agricultural Research Service at Plum Island Animal Disease Center and took seven years to develop and license with scientists at GenVec, Inc. GenVec has licensed the rights to develop and commercialize this vaccine technology to Merial, the animal health division of Sanofi.
The FMD virus contains genetic material (nucleic acids) surrounded by a coat of proteins called a capsid. The new vaccine production system produces only the virus coat proteins, forming an empty capsid that lacks the viral nucleic acid needed for replication. The immune systems of animals given the new vaccine respond to the capsid proteins and are primed to fight the virus if presented with the real thing. The new vaccine provides a safety advantage because the vaccine virus cannot replicate in the animal.
FMD is one of the most highly contagious diseases of livestock. FMD is present in large parts of the world including parts of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South America. The US is free from the disease and has strict policies on trade in livestock and livestock products with countries that have FMD. FMD is not considered a public health threat.
Vaccination of cattle with the new vaccine has been shown to produce protective immunity which can control transmission during an outbreak. Vaccination is more likely to succeed if there is ample time between vaccination and exposure to create sufficient immunity to FMD virus.
While this vaccine is an exciting new tool to aid in the control and eradication of FMD, it must be remembered that producing vaccine against the exact serotype and strain involved in an outbreak takes time. Other control measures will be applied immediately.