Rinderpest Virus

Authored by: Anke Bruning-Richardson

Molecular Detection of Animal Viral Pathogens

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9781498700368
eBook ISBN: 9781498700375
Adobe ISBN:


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One of the most devastating veterinary diseases in terms of economic and animal losses, rinderpest was declared globally eradicated in 2011,1 an incredible feat considering the worldwide distribution of the disease, only matched by the global eradication of smallpox 31 years earlier.2 Rinderpest was an ancient disease known to Romans and Egyptians alike, which accompanied humankind into the twenty-first century.3 It has been estimated to have caused losses totaling $2 billion in, for example, Nigeria alone and brought huge suffering to communities depending on farming or meat production for their likelihood sweeping from Eastern Europe to Africa, where its devastating effects were especially felt. 4,5 The first major epidemic in Africa in the 1890s is believed to have killed more than 80% of the African livestock, and as a consequence, one-third of Ethiopians and two-thirds of the Maasai people starved to death.6 The second African epidemic and outbreaks in many Asian regions in the 1980s led to the loss of an estimated 100 million animals.6 The disease was devastating due to the mortality rates of up to 90% among susceptible animals.7 Ultimately, the threat of rinderpest was so great that it led to the establishment of the first veterinary schools in Europe and the introduction of control measures such as slaughter policies and animal isolation when it became clear that close animal contact was the mode of virus transmission. 7-11 In the twentieth century, a concerted effort to bring the disease under control led to the announcement of the Global Rinderpest Eradication Program (GREP) by the UN′s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), which aimed at an internationally coordinated collaboration to eradicate rinderpest worldwide.12 The success of this program was, according to Professor John Anderson, "the development of the right technology for field use in Africa and Asia, successful transfer of that technology along with technical backup, and the provision of standardized diagnostic kits that everyone could use." In addition, the development of a live attenuated vaccine that gave lifelong immunity, rinderpest education programs, relevant training of staff involved in the eradication program, and the collaboration of people at national and international levels all contributed to the eradication.

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