Science / Medicine : Foot-Mouth Virus Unmasked

From Times Staff and Wire service reports

Scientists say they have mapped the structure of the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease--an achievement that should help improve vaccines against a feared killer of livestock worldwide. Reporting in the scientific journal Nature, a team of British researchers said they used X-ray diffraction techniques to create a three-dimensional blueprint of the foot-and-mouth virus.

"Foot-and-mouth disease remains a major scourge of livestock in several continents . . . severe economic losses due to the disease still occur," wrote the researchers from Oxford University and Wellcome Biotech. Although vaccines made from killed virus are available, researchers said such vaccines must be refrigerated, making them "difficult to administer in remote regions."

According to the researchers, the new knowledge of the virus' structure "should assist in the development of improved and novel vaccines."

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