Scientists make FMD discovery

Scientists have discovered a 
molecule which they believe might be able to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

Using a non-harmful model of the virus, the team discovered that the enzyme forms fibrous structures (fibrils) when it is copying genetic information it needs to replicate. They also discovered a molecule which can prevent these fibrils from forming.

The scientists said they did not 
yet fully understand the implications of the fibrils, but that they may play an important role in the replication of the virus. If that is the case, the discovery of a molecule to block the fibrils would be “significant”. 

“It’s too much of a jump to say we’ve found a potential drug target for treatment of foot-and-mouth disease, because there is still such a lot we don’t know,” said Dr Nicola Stonehouse of the University of Leeds. “However, we do think these findings are significant and provide us with a new avenue for exploration.”

Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the research could be a big step forward for the understanding of FMD. The virus’ ability to reproduce very quickly means it can cause huge devastation in a short space of time; an outbreak in the UK in 2001 
resulted in the deaths of around seven million sheep and cattle.

Scientists now plan to investigate the fibrils further, in order to get a fuller understanding of their structure and purpose.

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