The genetic blueprint that results in FMD being so infectious

Scientists have conducted a ‘molecular dissection’ of a part of the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), to try and understand why the pathogen is so infectious.

Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious infection of cloven-hoofed animals, which impacts on agricultural production and herd fertility. Global economic losses due to the disease have been estimated at between $6.5 billion and $22.5 billion each year, with the world’s poorest farmers hit the hardest.  A team of scientists from the University of Leeds and University of Ilorin, in Nigeria, has investigated the significance of the unusual way the virus’s genome – or genetic blueprint – codes for the manufacture of a protein called 3B. The protein is involved in the replication of the virus.

Researchers have known for some time that the virus’s genetic blueprint contains three separate codes or instructions for the manufacture of 3B. Each code produces a similar but not identical copy of 3B. Up to now, scientists have not been able to explain the significance of having three different forms of the protein.

In a paper the researchers reveal the results of a series of laboratory experiments which has demonstrated that having multiple forms of 3B gives the virus a competitive advantage, increasing its chances of survival.

The study involved using harmless viral fragments and replicons, fragments of RNA molecules, the chemical that make up the virus’s genetic code.Source :