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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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New 'DoggyLottery' to raise funds for rescue centres

News Story 1
 A new 'DoggyLottery' to raise funds for dog rescue centres in the UK will launch on Saturday (4 July). Every four weeks, five different rescue centres will be connected to the lottery, providing much-needed funds - particularly during COVID-19 - and providing vital online exposure.

A weekly game costs £1.50 and entrants will have the chance of being one of 20 guaranteed winners. A massive 60 per cent of the raised funds will go towards the dog rescue centres, more than double that donated by leading lottery companies to charitable causes.

To find out more and play the lottery, visit www.doggylottery.co.uk  

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News Shorts
International Cat Care appoints new head of veterinary division

International Cat Care (ICC) has announced the appointment of Nathalie Dowgray as head of the charity's veterinary division.

Nathalie, who is an RCVS advanced practitioner in feline medicine, will lead the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) and a play key role in advancing knowledge and research in feline medicine.

Claire Bessant, iCatCare's chief executive said: "We're absolutely delighted to be welcoming Nathalie to the charity. She brings a depth and breadth of feline expertise and understanding which fits perfectly with the charity's work and development, and her enthusiasm for cats is infectious."