Research roundup: Are areas of greater human and animal populations critical for shaping patterns of Foot and Mouth Disease spread in East Africa?

June 14, 2021

Spread of the highly contagious foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV) in East Africa continues in areas with higher populations of people and animals—including where local herds congregate for trade, according to newly published University research. While FMDV has been largely eradicated in the developed world, it persists in certain regions of the developing world, including within the porous and under-regulated borders of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, on which the study focused. Gaining a handle on what drives disease spread—currently poorly understood due to its complex epidemiology—is critical because of the disease’s connection to both livestock production and poverty. By looking at the evolutionary changes in genetic sequences of FMDV viral samples collected in the region between 2014 and 2017, University researchers Anna Munsey, DVM, PhD, and Kimberly VanderWaal, PhD, reconstructed how the virus has spread through time and space. The analysis of the samples supports the notion that human demand for animal products might shape patterns of FMDV spread, and that areas near livestock markets may serve as transmission hotspots. Such areas could be a focus of future FMDV control strategies. FMDV affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats, and other livestock. The virus disrupts regional and international trade of animals and animal products, and hurts economies in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and in limited areas of South America. 

Read the paper in Molecular Ecology.



A man drives a herd of cattle along a rural road in Uganda.
Photo by Bill Wegener on Unsplash