Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral infection affecting hooved animals, caused by the FMD virus (FMDV) with seven known serotypes. The virus’s high mutation rate leads to diverse genetic lineages and topotypes. FMD incursions in disease-free regions have significant socio-economic impacts. Vaccination is applied both in endemic countries and some disease-free regions as a preventive measure.

A study led by Prof. Eyal Klement from the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Dr. Sharon Karniely from the Kimron Veterinary Institute, aligned Israeli FMD strains with those from neighbouring countries in corresponding years. The findings indicate a pattern of repeated FMD virus incursions, emphasizing the need for a more targeted and collaborative approach to disease management.

Genomic analysis

A genomic analysis of the FMD epidemic in Israel in 2007, caused by a serotype O virus, revealed predominant transmission among extensively farmed beef-cattle and small ruminants. Small ruminants were identified as key contributors in transmitting the virus to beef-cattle, which subsequently spread it to feedlot-cattle, while wild gazelles played a minor role.

The results indicate a potential transmission route from the Palestinian Authority to Israel, underscoring the importance of cross-border cooperation in disease control efforts.

”We believe that a targeted approach focusing on extensive farms, coupled with improved surveillance and vaccination efforts, could significantly enhance our control over Foot-and-Mouth Disease,” said Prof. Eyal Klement.

Collaborative approach

Given the evident cross-border transmission, the researchers emphasize the urgency of a collaborative FMD mitigation strategy across the Middle East. This cooperative effort, spearheaded by the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is crucial to curbing the recurring outbreaks and safeguarding the agricultural communities in the region, the authors said.

Navigating the challenge of controlling FMD across borders is further complicated by ongoing hostilities and geopolitical tensions, adding layers of complexity to collaborative efforts amidst these conflicts.

The research findings have important implications for policymakers, veterinarians, and farmers in Israel and neighbouring nations, as they underscore the need for a unified approach to combat FMD and mitigate its economic and agricultural impact.