Building on a previous study, researchers at The Pirbright Institute and the University of Glasgow have demonstrated that milk samples collected in the field can be successfully used to recognize cattle infected with foot and mouth disease (FMD).
Pirbright said the follow-up study was conducted in Tanzania, where the disease is endemic and outbreaks across regions are frequent.
“Although we had previously demonstrated that it is possible to detect FMD virus in milk samples in the lab, this is the first time we have shown that milk samples taken during an outbreak in an endemic country can be used for disease surveillance,” said Bryony Armson, first author of the study at Pirbright.
Samples of tissue or blood are usually collected to verify cases of FMD, which requires the expertise of a veterinarian or an animal health professional, the institute said. Furthermore, these samples are usually only collected from infected animals displaying clinical signs, resulting in sub-clinical animals being overlooked, even though they may still be able to transmit the disease.
These factors can result in the underreporting of FMD, masking the true prevalence of the disease in parts of the world where it is endemic, the institute said.
Because milk sample collection requires little expertise, these results, published in Transboundary & Emerging Diseases, provide an accessible and cost-effective way of monitoring FMD outbreaks that could strengthen surveillance capabilities in East Africa at both the individual animal and herd levels, Pirbright said. The team is now looking to assess the reliability of FMD detection in pooled milk taken from dairy farms, which could allow the researchers to identify infected herds as a part of routine surveillance.