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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

ARS Scientist Wins Award for FMD Research / February 9, 2005 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Marvin J. Grubman
Marvin J. Grubman

ARS Scientist Wins Award for FMD Research

By David Elstein
February 9, 2005

National news release

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9— Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist Marvin J. Grubman has been named by ARS as a “Senior Research Scientist of 2004” for his work to develop vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.

Grubman, based at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York, will be honored here today as the agency’s top senior scientist for its North Atlantic Area, which includes Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia. He will receive a plaque, a cash award and additional research funding during a ceremony at USDA headquarters.

Grubman is being honored for his research leading to improved delivery of the foot-and-mouth (FMD) vaccine he invented in 1999. Animals receiving his original vaccine took nearly a week to develop protective immunity. Because the FMD virus spreads very quickly through livestock, a vaccine with quicker action was needed.

Aerial view of Plum Island Animal Disease Center.
Aerial view of Plum Island Animal Disease Center.

The new vaccine delivery involves the use of an antiviral, called interferon alpha, which takes only hours to impart immunity and can last for three to five days. The antiviral/vaccine combination can induce both rapid and long-lasting protection, potentially preventing many animals from being infected.

In addition, it was previously difficult to differentiate between animals that had been vaccinated against the FMD virus and those that had been infected. Grubman’s vaccine--which contains only a portion of the FMD virus--can utilize a diagnostic test that has already been approved to easily distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals.

The new vaccine contains only virus coat particles. These particles, called empty viral capsids, lack the infectious viral nucleic acids, so the new vaccine cannot cause disease. This, in turn, means the vaccine can be produced on the U.S. mainland.

FMD is a highly contagious disease of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, swine and sheep. Humans do not get the disease, but can act as mechanical carriers for the virus. Animals afflicted with FMD usually do not die, but the disease is very debilitating. An infected animal develops virus-filled blisters around its mouth and hooves, making it difficult for the animal to walk and generally decreasing the animal's productivity.

There has not been an FMD outbreak in the United States since 1929.

ARS has a foreign animal disease research program at the Plum Island center, which is now operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Last Modified: 2/7/2005
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