January 31, 2024 – A pattern of recurrent Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), a highly contagious viral infection affecting hooved animals, continues to persist in Israel and neighboring areas, despite vaccination efforts, requiring a more targeted and collaborative approach to disease management.

FMD is caused by the FMD virus (FMDV) and has seven known serotypes (a distinct variation within a species of bacteria or virus or among immune cells of different individuals). Although vaccination is applied both in endemic countries and some disease-free regions as a preventive measure, the virus’s high mutation rate leads to diverse genetic lineages. FMD incursions in disease-free regions have significant socio-economic impacts.

In a study published in Science Direct Virology, Prof. Eyal Klement of the Hebrew University Koret School of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Sharon Karniely of the Kimron Veterinary Institute determined that Israeli FMD strains are similar to those from neighboring countries in corresponding years of outbreaks.

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 grazing ruminants, such as sheep and goats. The ruminants were identified as key contributors in transmitting the virus to beef-cattle, which subsequently spread it to feedlot-cattle. Wild gazelles were also found to play a minor role.

The results indicated 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.

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 neighboring nations, as they underscore the need for a unified approach to combat FMD and mitigate its economic and agricultural impact.

The research paper titled “Foot and mouth disease viruses are recurrently introduced to Israel and spread by extensively reared sheep and cattle: Insights from a whole-genome sequence analysis” is now available at Science Direct and can be accessed at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0042682223002696?via%3Dihub

Greta Ivanov1, Eyal Klement1, Boris Gelman2, Ehud Elnekave1, Sharon Karniely2

1) Koret School of Veterinary Medicine, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

2) Department of Virology, Kimron Veterinary Institute