Afro-centric foot-and-mouth disease diagnostic kit brings relieve to SADC farmers

cows drinking water

Livestock owners and farmers will now be able to identify Foot-and-mouth Disease (FMD) several months past the initial two-week active outbreak period.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR, South Africa) together with the Central Veterinary Research Institute (CVRI) in Zambia and the Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique (IIAM) are conducting field trials of a new afro-centric FMD diagnostic kit in a project funded by the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (NEPAD SANBio) through the BioFISA II Programme.

The southern Africa region has numerous economically threatening diseases which can impact a country’s export and import potential, and FMD is one of them.

FMD is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease affecting hoofed animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo and pigs. Although it is not a direct threat to humans, it can be spread by infected animals and their products, and feeds.

Dr Phiyani Lebea said not only will the diagnostic kit be able to detect FMD, but it will also detect SAT (Southern African Territories) 1, 2 & 3 FMD serotypes.

“The current FMD diagnostic kit on the market is not able to specifically identify SAT 1, 2 and 3. We will be the first to be able to do so,” he said.

Inspired to aid resource poor countries and farmers where FMD virus is detected long after clinical stages. The kit will test the antibodies to estimate as closely as possible what virus your calves had which will then assist veterinarians choose the specific vaccine you should get to prevent the same virus from infecting your calves again. 

There are 7 known types and more than 60 subtypes of the FMD virus which can be spread by infected animals and their products and feeds. Immunity to one type does not protect an animal against other types or subtypes. 

The disease is not usually fatal in adult animals, although many young animals may die. However, it causes vesicles, which are similar to blisters, that quickly pop and cause erosions in the mouth or on the feet, resulting in excessive salivation or lameness; animals may also be left permanently lame and the productivity of recovered animals may be reduced.

While FMD is not curable, Lebea hopes that with a SAT serotype targeted detection, farmers and hauliers could maintain strong biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of re-exposure to the disease limit its spread by buying the correct vaccine.

The diagnostic kit could have an even bigger impact for the agricultural sector, and the funding from SANBio stands to make that possible. Lebea further called for collaboration with other sectors as well.

“As CSIR Biosciences our job and wish is to make sure that we produce technologies that are useful not only to our country but the region, and to Africa as a whole. We do not want this to be a one-man show, we want this to be something applied in collaborations. We are open to other institutes and ideas that complement what we do,” Lebea concluded.