MadSci Network: Immunology

Re: how does FMD mutate and affect humans?

Date: Thu Jun 21 18:31:03 2001
Posted By: Bonnie Tam, medical student, University of Pittsburgh
Area of science: Immunology
ID: 986966676.Im

Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) is a highly communicable viral disease of 
cattle and swine. It also affects other cloven-footed animals such as 
sheep, goats, deer, bison, llamas, and elk. The disease is characterized 
by fever and blister-like lesions followed by erosions on the tongue and 
lips, in the mouth, on the teats, and between the hooves. Some affected 
animals recover but the disease leaves many animals debilitated. There are 
seven main types of virus and many subtypes that are subject to rapid 
mutation, making vaccination problematic as a method of control.

According to the Department of Health, infection in humans is very rare 
and, if infected, disease symptoms are even rarer.  As of February 1, 
2001, the Public Health Laboratory Service said there has only been one 
recorded case in Britain of FMD affecting a human, which was in 1967.  The 
general effects of the disease in that case were similar to influenza with 
some blisters. It is a mild short lived, self-limiting disease. There is, 
however, a human condition called Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, which is 
unrelated and doesn't affect animals.

FMD is often confused with hand-foot-and-mouth disease which affects 
humans and not animals.  Sometimes FMD is also confused with bovine 
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), sometimes called mad cow disease.  BSE 
belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform 
encephalopathies (TSE) that most experts believe are caused by an 
infectious protein called a prion. Although transmissible, they are not as 
contagious as foot-and-mouth disease.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has a press release on FMD and 


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