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U.K. Developing Livestock Vaccine That May Ease Shortage

Scientists in the U.K. are developing a vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease in livestock that may be safer to produce than current inoculations that use the live virus, according to research.

The finding may help ease a global shortage of vaccines for foot-and-mouth disease, which is potentially fatal for young livestock, because the new products use synthetic materials that are easier to store and monitor than the live virus, according to a statement from Diamond Light Source, a nonprofit research company funded by the U.K. government and the Wellcome Trust. The study, carried out by Diamond, the Pirbright Institute and Oxford and Reading universities, was published today in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

“The vaccine doesn’t need the live virus for its production, so it’s an intrinsically safer vaccine,” Bryan Charleston, head of Pirbright’s livestock viral diseases program and a lead researcher on the study, said at a news conference in London. Under current methods “there’s an ongoing threat of production facilities causing the release of a live virus, so very expensive control measures have to be in place to ensure releases don’t occur. That limits the level of production that’s possible and increases the expense of establishing new plants.”

Foot-and-mouth disease, which is highly contagious among livestock including cattle, sheep and pigs, is endemic in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. An outbreak in the U.K. in 2001 led to the slaughter of 6 million livestock, costing the country about 8 billion pounds ($12 billion), according to the study.

Three billion live-virus vaccines are administered globally every year to livestock, and the disease costs about $5 billion annually, according to the report.

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