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[KARACHI] The United States will help Pakistan fight foot and mouth disease (FMD) that affects cattle and causes losses in milk and meat production worth millions of dollars each year.

FMD, caused by various strains of the highly contagious picornavirus, debilitates cloven-hoofed animals.  

One in every four Pakistani households depends on livestock for economic sustenance, underlining the importance of tackling FMD. 

The four-year, US$ nine million collaboration includes plugging research gaps in diagnosis, understanding the causes, distribution and control of the disease and development of new vaccines (

FMD causes an estimated loss of US$ 82 million each year, according to Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) in Islamabad.

A 2005 study by PARC observed that FMD was limited to mild seasonal outbreaks until the 1970s.

But, with the introduction of exotic, high-yielding cattle breeds in the 1980s, many of which were susceptible to FMD, the disease turned into a severe, round-the-year occurrence.

David Wolf, senior agriculture attaché at the US embassy in Islamabad, said the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) would provide training and equipment to researchers and veterinarians across Pakistan.

"This training will allow Pakistani scientists to use the latest technologies and treatments to fight against this disease," he explained.

FAO’s regional epidemiologist and FMD project coordinator in Pakistan, Manzoor Hussain, told SciDev.Net that US$ two million would be spent on research alone.

Another US$ seven million will go into strengthening diagnosis, surveillance and response; development of new vaccines in collaboration with the FAO World Reference Laboratory for Foot and Mouth Disease and the Plum Island Animal Disease Centre, New York.  

"Absence of effective diagnosis of the deadly disease, which has grown endemic in the country over the years, is a prime cause of failure in combating it," Hussain said.

He said the research grant would help strengthen Pakistan’s FMD diagnosis through introduction of the latest biological, chemical and molecular analytical techniques, and sampling methods. 

US scientists would also impart extensive capacity building training to Pakistani veterinary field staff in disease detection and reporting, sample collection and treatment through vaccination in affected areas, project research coordinator, Khalid Naeem, said.

Link to the US embassy release