IAEA Contributions to FMD control in Europe

The Animal Production and Health Section of NAFA has sustained its approach to supporting diagnostic methods, enabling member states to identify and differentiate animal diseases of livestock, over the past 20 years. Such diseases can be devastating directly through killing animals and indirectly through affecting trade in stopping animal and animal product movement. Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is the major livestock problem in the world and is endemic in most developing countries and therefore many member states. FMD is caused by a virus and the only means of protection is to use vaccines to prevent infection and to apply rigid rules about animal movement control. Such vaccines have to be given two to three times a year and are fragile. The use of such vaccines in developing countries is difficult and the control of animal movement is almost impossible. Europe, North America, Canada, Australia are free from FMD and resist importation through export control from affected countries therefore, all measures taken in developing countries a value add to the protection of Europe.

A major feature of control is the rapid identification of FMD and reporting of this to a central organisation to apply control measures. The IAEA has helped develop technologies to more accurately and rapidly identify diseases, including FMD, either directly, identifying and differentiating the virus through analysis of samples in the field situation and laboratory; as well indirectly through measurement of antibodies in animals blood confirming infection. All such technologies are used in European labs to confirm local s health status as well as to test imported animals and to be ready to assess herds should there be an outbreak.

A feature of the IAEA input has been to help develop and validate nuclear and nuclear related methods to differentiate infected animals from those which have antibodies only as a result of vaccination. This is important since vaccinated animals produce similar antibodies to those after infection and hitherto could not be distinguished. Recovered infected animals are classed as possible carriers since they may have retained virus and may be infectious to others. A CRP involving 10 member states defined the performance of commercial assays as well as developed new tests to allow differentiation. The tests are used to assess animal populations (cattle, sheep, pigs, goats) in a surveillance manner to seek out pockets of disease during an epidemic or more importantly to trade following an outbreak, to re-establish a status of freedom from infection. The validated methods are now accepted in European laboratories.

The IAEA has also been instrumental in help validate molecular technologies involving the use of radio isotopically labelled compounds to apply the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology to the direct detection of FMD at the field side as well as in the laboratory.

The golden aim of the APH section is to help produce technologies involving direct diagnostic and reporting systems using a single, cheap, robust machine that can be used directly at the penside. In this way there can be instant reporting of the disease in time and space so that an emerging disease can be monitored in real time. This is vital in the case of FMD. Current technologies offer this possibility for the first time and the validation of such systems in a CRP is now underway.