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New insights into foot and mouth disease virus
Scientists previously thought that FMDV evolution is mainly driven by mutations caused by small copying errors.
Study shows recombination is a major driver of FMDV evolution 

A study by the Pirbright Institute has revealed new insights into the evolution of foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV).

The research, published in PLOS Pathogens, found that different FMDV populations swap sections of genetic material at a far higher rate than previously thought. The information will help scientists understand how the frequency of these changes can shape virus evolution and cause new outbreaks.

Until now, scientists believed that FMDV evolution is mainly driven by mutations - caused by small copying errors that accumulate in the RNA genome of the virus when it replicates, known as substitutions. In this new study, however, researchers show that mutations caused by viral recombination events, where different FMD viruses infecting the same animal swap sections of their genome, occur almost as often as substitutions.

To show that these recombination events occur, the team injected African buffaloes with two similar FMDV strains, and then examined changes in regions of the genomes that code for proteins in the FMDV outer shell, called the capsid. The host immune system targets capsid proteins to control infection, but changes in those proteins can sometimes prevent the immune system from recognising the virus, allowing it to ‘escape’ and potentially cause a new outbreak.

Their study also revealed that levels of recombination were up to 40 times higher in the initial phase of infection compared to later on during the persistent phase, indicating that new variants of FMDV are most likely to be created soon after an animal becomes infected.

The results align with previous research by Pirbrgith that demonstrates persistently-infected African buffaloes are unlikely to generate new FMDV variations and cause new outbreaks. Researchers say this is important because African buffalo act as a reservoir for FMD, carrying the virus for years without presenting clinical signs.

“The number of recombination events we saw between the two viruses used in this research was surprising”, said Professor Bryan Charleston, Director of The Pirbright Institute. “This tells us that recombination is a major driver of FMDV evolution and understanding the mechanisms that determine how new strains are generated could help researchers analyse emerging FMD outbreaks in the field.”

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BEVA gives vets access to free membership for 3 months

News Story 1
 BEVA has announced that it is cutting membership renewal charges for the next three months in order to support all veterinary professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Memberships for all existing BEVA members will be extended until 30 June 2020. Veterinary professionals who are not members of BEVA will also be able to sign up for a free membership until 30 June 2020.

BEVA president Tim Mair said: "In this extraordinary time of global crisis our profession, as with many industries, is under immense pressure. By offering free membership we are giving equine vets easy access to a wealth of supportive resources and online CPD."

To sign up please visit the BEVA website.

Image (c) BEVA. 

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LOVE Gorgie Farm seeking veterinary volunteers

LOVE Gorgie Farm in Edinburgh is looking for people with veterinary and animal care experience, who would be interested in volunteering to help care for its animals during these difficult times.

The community-owned charity farm opened to the public only last month, but decided to close temporarily amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Its three-person team is working to care for the animals behind the scenes and the farm is now operating as a food bank for the public, delivering free breakfasts to local school children.

In an effort to build a contingency plan to secure the welfare of its animals, LOVE Gorgie Farm is looking for volunteers who would be able to step in if any team members fell sick or needed to self-isolate.

Those interested in volunteering are asked to contact gorgie@l-o-v-e.org.uk