Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

£5.6m project seeks new foot-and-mouth vaccine

Foot-and-mouth in Lockerbie
Image caption Thousands of animals were destroyed in Scotland during the 2001 outbreak

A new £5.6m research project has been launched in an attempt to create a new vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease in livestock.

The virus is one of the most contagious in cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.

Current vaccines must be refrigerated and require multiple boosters, making them difficult to administer in Africa - where the virus is endemic.

The new study, led by St Andrews University, will aim to develop a new generation of vaccines.

Millions of animals had to be destroyed in the UK's last foot-and-mouth outbreak, which took place in 2001.

The study - which will also involve the Pirbright Institute and the universities of Dundee, Edinburgh and Leeds - will investigate the virus' growth and interaction with cells.

Safer process

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 researchers will also attempt to use knowledge of how the virus grows in cells to make a new type of virus that could only grow in specially designed "helper" cells, meaning the virus could not then grow in animals.

This would make the use of existing conventional vaccines a much safer process.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has awarded the £5.6m to the five-year project.

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