Selected Scientific Accomplishments
Scientists at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center have made significant
APHIS fact sheet on FMD
- Determined many important aspects of virus structure, function and
replication at the molecular level. This has led to highly specific
diagnostic tests based on nucleic acid probes, antiviral drugs and molecular
- Identified a drug that prevents FMD virus replication.
- Found that a variation between different FMD virus isolates is a
result of changed shape of part of an important surface protein of the
virus. This is important in vaccination.
- Produced a synthetic DNA copy of FMD virus genetic information. This
is an important advance facilitating vaccine design.
- Found that FMD viruses with short poly C tracts are not attenuated
and cannot be used as vaccines.
- Produced chimeric vaccines that have components of two virus serotypes.
This is important in vaccine design.
- Discoveries in acid and enzyme resistance of FMD virus that will help
prolong vaccine shelf life.
- Research on various methods of vaccination with parts of the FMD virus
that may lead to vaccines that cannot cause disease.
- Development and field-testing of an ELISA test that detects six of
seven FMD virus serotypes. The test works on materials that no longer
contain live virus and can be used without biocontainment.
- Developed a PCR test that will detect one tissue culture infectious
dose of virus--a very small amount.
Research personnel examining animal for presence of foot and mouth disease
in one of the laboratory's animal isolation rooms
African Horsesickness (AHS)
- Identified viral proteins that stimulate protective immunity.
- Identified viral genes coding for proteins that stimulate immunity.
- Discovered that AHS virus grows in cells lining blood vessels of the
lungs and that destruction of these cells causes clinical disease.
- Found that the three different clinical forms of AHS are the result
of genetic properties of different viruses and not the result of different
degrees of horse resistance.
- Developed highly specific and sensitive diagnostic tests for AHS
virus or antiviral antibodies.
African Swine Fever (ASF)
- Determined nucleic acid sequence of ASF DNA genome. This is the largest
animal virus yet sequenced.
- Showed that DNA sequence of ASF virus is different from that of human
immunodeficiency virus and human herpesvirus 6. This makes clear that
ASF virus is not involved in these human infections.
- Identified several virus genes that are important in persistent virus
infection of carrier animals and in virus' evasion of host defense mechanisms.
- Using DNA sequence, developed highly specific and sensitive nucleic
acid probes and detection techniques. Virus found in carrier swine for
more than 500 days.
- Showed that antibodies alone can passively protect pigs against ASF
virus. This is very important in vaccine design.
- Demonstrated presence of neutralizing antibodies in serum of pigs
recovered from ASF. Also showed that reports to the contrary were due
to neutralization test misinterpretation.
- Produced a neutralizing monoclonal antibody for ASF virus--the first
time this was done.
- Identified an ASF virus protein, P72, against which neutralizing antibodies
are directed. This may be a vaccine candidate.
Macrophage cell in early stages of infection with African
swine fever virus, magnified about 1000X.
Microbiologist Zhiqiang Lu uses a DNA sequencer to examine genetically
engineered African swine fever viruses.
Vaccines for Foreign Animal Diseases
- Involved in a cooperative agreement with a U.S. company to make a
range of foreign animal disease vaccines for livestock.
- Developed and tested a genetically engineered vaccine for Rinderpest
and Pest des Petits Ruminants.
- One million doses of A81 Argentina 87 vaccine added to the North American
Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank at Plum Island.
- Developed and tested a vaccine for Rift Valley fever of cattle and
- Developed and tested a thermostable Rinderpest vaccine, now being
produced in Africa for the Pan African Rinderpest Vaccine Campaign.
- Developed and tested a genetically engineered vaccine for Venezuelan
Equine Encephalitis that has applications for other viral encephalitis
infections of animals and man.
- Developed and tested a genetically engineered vaccine for Japanese
encephalitis of swine.
- Potency-tested a commercial vaccine for African Horsesickness. This
inactivated vaccine gave adequate protection and allowed differentiation
between animals that had been vaccinated and those that had recovered
from the disease.
- Conducted research that formed the basis for APHIS regulations allowing
importation of bovine embryos from countries infected with FMD.
- Conducted research that formed the basis for regulations allowing
safe importation of Parma ham from Italy.
- Worked with U.S. biotechnology company to evaluate competitive ELISA
test for detection of Bluetongue antibodies. This test is now licensed
by APHIS and Agriculture Canada for U.S.-Canada trade.
- Evaluated the Spanish dry-cure process for meat products in meat
from white pigs and the Spanish black pig in terms of the process' ability
to inactivate food and mouth disease, swine vesicular diseases, hog
cholera and African Swine Fever viruses. This will result in new trade