USDA officials and scientists are hosting the Foot and Mouth Disease Global Research Alliance in Washington this week to discuss collaborative research to develop better vaccines and antiviral agents against the virus that causes foot and mouth disease (FMD).

"This meeting is important to future research and prevention efforts," said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. "By bringing together world-class research scientists, we can more effectively focus on cooperative research efforts to help fight this disease."

The FMD Global Research Alliance was developed to provide tools to countries affected with FMD to slow down the virus and to ensure that FMD-free countries do not have outbreaks of the disease. The alliance includes the Pirbright Laboratory of the United Kingdom's Institute for Animal Health; the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong, part of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation; Canada's National Center for Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory in Canada; and Kenya's International Livestock Research Institute.

USDA's part of the research will be carried out by scientists working at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. USDA researchers will work on developing a new vaccine against FMD and will lead the effort to identify antiviral compounds to quickly stop virus replication. Current vaccines can take up to two weeks to fully protect animals from FMD infection. USDA scientists are trying to decrease that time to several days, which could save millions of animals and billions of dollars if an outbreak were to occur.

Agricultural Research Service