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Foot and mouth disease may spread through shedding skin cells
Date:5/10/2011

LIVERMORE, Calif. --Skin cells shed from livestock infected with foot and mouth disease could very well spread the disease.

In a new paper appearing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Michael Dillon proposed that virus-infected skin cells could be a source of infectious foot and mouth disease virus aerosols. His proposal is based on the facts that foot and mouth disease virus is found in skin and that airborne skin cells are known to transmit other diseases.

The proposal could lead to new methods for surveillance for foot and mouth disease (as in settled dust), the development of more effective control measures, and improved studies of the persistence of the disease in the environment. The research also may be applicable to how other infectious diseases are spread.

Foot and mouth is a highly contagious viral disease capable of causing widespread epidemics in livestock. The foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV) has multiple known routes of transmission. These include direct contact (animal-to-animal contact at mucous membranes, cuts or abrasions), indirect contact (such as contaminated bedding), ingestion (contaminated feed) and the respiratory or airborne pathway (inhalation of infectious aerosols).

"The airborne pathway may play a role in some outbreaks by causing disease 'sparks' (disease spread to regions remote from a primary infection site)," Dillon said. "If the disease isn't detected quickly, these 'sparks' can lead to major outbreaks."

Dillon cited the widespread dissemination of FMDV during the catastrophic 2001 United Kingdom outbreak, which is thought to be caused by the inadvertent transport of animals with unrecognized FMDV infection from a Prestwick area farm to areas previously free of FMDV.

Mammals actively shed skin cells into the environment. Skin cells comprise a significant fraction (1 percent to 10 percent) of measured indoo
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Contact: Anne Stark
stark8@llnl.gov
925-422-9799
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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