Homeland Security develops vaccine for foot-and-mouth

The Department of Homeland Security announced this week that it has developed the first vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease that can be licensed and manufactured in the United States.

The vaccine could be used against the infectious animal disease in case of an outbreak or attack. The vaccine is effective against just one strain of the virus, but vaccines against other strains are being developed, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"This is the biggest news in (foot-and-mouth disease) research in the last 50 years," Lawrence Barrett, the director of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center on Long Island, N.Y., said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease include blisters on the feet and mouth, drooling, fever, loss of appetite and lameness. Animal herds that have become infected with the disease are typically destroyed.

The virus can be spread by bodily secretions, breath, the ground and can be transferred long distances by wind. While the United States has been free of the disease since 1929, Britain had an outbreak of foot-and-mouth in 2001 requiring the culling of 10 million cows. An outbreak in the United States could cost more than $50 billion.

Vaccines are available against the virus but contain a live virus and thus cannot be legally manufactured in the United States. The new vaccine contains a coat of proteins that produces an immune response but does not contain genetic material of the disease. The DHS worked with Antelope Valley Biologics and GenVec Inc. to manufacture and license the vaccine.