FUTURE outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) could be controlled effectively and quickly with vaccinations – saving millions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of livestock – according to research by the University of Warwick.

Dr Michael Tildesley and Naomi Bradbury, of the School of Life Sciences, have discovered that a key issue for successfully containing and eradicating a FMD outbreak is to establish how many animals can be vaccinated per day, and tailor controls accordingly.

Their model shows that the major uncertainty to be resolved is how many vaccine doses are available. If this is known, the infection can be contained efficiently.

The 2001 outbreak cost the UK economy an estimated £8 billion and led to the culling of approximately seven million livestock.

Using the Warwick FMD model, and confirming what vaccination capacity exists, the UK could save up to £50 million with around 200,000 animals spared from culling.

Tailored vaccination can generally eradicate an outbreak almost a week earlier than previous ones.

Dr Tildesley said: "If we can accurately determine the daily capacity to vaccinate animals, we can potentially save millions of pounds for the farming industry."

The research was carried out in collaboration with Pennsylvania State University, Vanberbilt University and the United States Geological Survey. It was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).