Email received from Roger Breeze
May 6th 2011
Dear Mary:The email was in response to our posting:
Scientists - and British veterinary authorities involved in controlling the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic - have known since early 2001 that a real time PCR test can detect cattle, swine and sheep infected with foot and mouth disease virus 24 to 96 hours before they show any clinical signs of disease and before foot and mouth disease virus can be isolated from the animals by cell culture (Use of a portable real time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assay for rapid detection of foot and mouth disease virus, Callahan, J.D. and others, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 220, 1636 - 1642, 2002). We have also known for over a decade that this real time PCR test can be performed at the site of the potential foot and mouth outbreak using automated PCR analyzers that do not require a laboratory and that scientific experts located anywhere in the world can follow the PCR process as it is actually being performed at the site of the outbreak by logging onto the PCR device via the internet. In recent years advances in device automation have further simplified the PCR test procedure such that the technical skill required to perform a state of the art foot and mouth PCR test is far less than that required to bake a loaf of bread in a kitchen bread machine. I can kick myself now for not asking the Archbishop of Canterbury to show Prince William how to run a foot and mouth PCR test at the Abbey while waiting for the organist to strike up the Wedding March.
And, of course, no one could argue with the statement that control measures for foot and mouth disease should be properly validated. In this respect, Dr. Woolhouse and his colleagues deserve our congratulations.
" He is quoted by Reuters as stating that "This study shows that what we thought we knew about foot and mouth disease is not entirely true."What more fitting statement could be the epitaph for the non-validated mathematical models that were the basis for the slaughter of millions of uninfected animals and economic hardship for hundreds of thousands in the countryside in 2001? It has the stark and direct simplicity of a haiku that should be the motto on the DEFRA T shirt:
What we thought we knewWonderful!
about foot and mouth disease
is not entirely true.
Its quiet yet powerful understatement also brings to mind the words of Japanese Emperor Hirohito in 1945 - a sentiment equally applicable to foot and mouth in Britain in 2001 - "The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japanís advantage."
All the best,
May 5th/6th 2011 ~ New research has "significantly altered scientists' thinking about FMD - "what we thought we knew about foot and mouth disease is not entirely true."
Reuters reports that research published in the journal Science (May 6th) suggests that cattle afflicted with the virus are only infectious for a brief window of time - that a cow with FMD is only infectious for around 1.7 days. Mark Woolhouse, Bryan Charleston and colleagues from Pirbright published the research which is based, says Reuters, on "new kinds of experiments in which they infected "source" cows with the FMD virus and then studied how it was transmitted to other, uninfected cows."
Woolhouse is quoted:
"This study shows that what we thought we knew about foot and mouth disease is not entirely true. We have pinned down, very specifically, the relationship between when the animals are infectious ... and when they show clinical signs of the infection."
May 5/6th 2011 ~ Dr Charleston maintains that the "next challenge" is to develop on-site diagnostic tests for use during an outbreak to detect FMD before clinical signs appear. This is an incomprehensible remark.
As we have been saying for several years now, such on-farm pre-clinical signs diagnostic tests for FMD are already available.
The UK based Smiths Detection BioseeqTM machine is a portable, briefcase sized device for on-farm detection of foot and mouth disease returning a result from the sample in about 90 minutes on farm. The study Diagnosis of FMD by RT-PCR: prospects for mobile and portable assays (pdf) funded by DEFRA concluded that such instruments
"provide realistic options for performing molecular assays for FMDV away from centralized laboratories"but the study then went on to say:
"validation of these and other mobile and portable instruments is required before RT-PCR methodology can reliably be used in the field or closer to suspect premises for FMD outbreak diagnosis and control."Can anyone explain why "validation" takes so long when what needs to be validated has already been so successfully tried and tested in such studies?
Another example is Tetracore's VetAlertTM an easy to perform single tube method
".. The assays are optimized for use on multiple platforms including the Cepheid SmartCycler, Roche LightCycler, ABI Prism, BioRad iCycler, Stratagene MX3005P, and Qiagen Rotor-Gene Q...."See documentation (pdf) .(More)
The UK's apparent reluctance to use available systems - which are not even mentioned in the latest Contingency Plan - is a mystery that we find deeply disturbing. Informed comment would be most gratefully received.