Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has authorized the movement of a modified, non-infectious version of the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) virus from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to the U.S. mainland for the purposes of continued vaccine development and study. While modified FMD virus is unable to cause disease and presents no risk of transmitting the disease, it is still live FMD virus, and Federal law requires the Secretary’s approval for this movement.
Identifying a vaccine that uses a modified virus will enable USDA to more quickly source and acquire FMD vaccine in the event of an outbreak of this devastating disease. With this announcement, vaccine companies may now apply for USDA permits to continue their work with this specific modified, non-infectious FMD virus in the United States. All permits granted would include appropriate biocontainment and use restrictions, and may be revoked if warranted.
In order to protect our nation’s livestock, the live FMD virus was previously not allowed anywhere in the country except for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, where it was held and worked with under very strict biocontainment procedures. However, with advances in technology, it is now possible to genetically modify the virus so that it is non-infectious. With this added protection, it is now possible to allow vaccine development within the U.S., rather than relying upon overseas sources.
FMD is a highly contagious viral foreign animal disease that affects domestic livestock – including cattle, swine, sheep, goats, and domestic cervids – with reduced milk and meat productivity, illness, and death.