Honors Gallery

A Cell Line Sensitive to Foot and Mouth Disease Virus

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2018

Award Type: National

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) - Northeast Area

Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is perhaps the most devastating disease affecting livestock, costing billions of dollars annually.  Seven strains of FMDV exist; all are highly contagious and can cause severe morbidity in livestock (cloven-hoofed animals).

The disease causes economic loss affected countries. In 2001, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the United Kingdom caused a crisis in British agriculture and tourism when 2,026 cases of the disease were found on farms across the British countryside. Over 6 million cows and sheep were killed to halt the disease in the absence of vaccination. This stamping-out control method faced serious public outcry and likely will not be used to control future outbreaks.

Effective vaccines are specific for isolated strains and therefore rapidly detecting and determining the strain of a circulating virus during an FMDV outbreak is critical to selecting an appropriate vaccine. In the past, FMDV diagnostic laboratories have utilized primary calf thyroid cells as the cell line for diagnostics. These cells are prepared by sacrificing calves and collecting their thyroid to prepare primary cell cultures that can be passaged only once.

The LFBKαVβ6 cell line, identified as kidney epithelial cells of porcine origin, are an immortalized cell line that is stable and can be passaged over 100 times.  The cells have been shown to be the most sensitive tool for isolating FMDV. The cell line was rationally designed by U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) scientists at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) using their knowledge about the mechanisms that FMDV uses to enter into cells (discovered by ARS scientist Barry Baxt in 1994).

The cell’s initial use was for studying mechanisms of virus cell entry. However, ARS microbiologist Michael LaRocco, in collaboration with Dr. Peter Krug and other ARS scientists, continued development of the cell line for more practical purposes such as virus growth for diagnostic detection and vaccine production.

Numerous FMDV diagnostic laboratories requested and received the LFBK αVβ6 cells from ARS’s Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit at PIADC under Material Transfer Agreements and used the cells in FMD diagnostics and research. Most importantly, the USDA-Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) requested that the cell line be used at its Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, which is the first line-of-defense laboratory in the U.S. to detect and diagnose incursions of foreign animal disease agents such as FMDV. Since 2015, the cell line has been sent to 16 countries, i.e., Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the U.S.

Contact: James Poulos, (301) 504-6464, [email protected]