Breakthrough foot-and-mouth vaccine announced

British scientists announced a breakthrough vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease this week that is both safer and easier to manufacture.

The new vaccine, the scientists say, could greatly increase production capacity while reducing costs, Reuters reports.

A live virus is not required for production of the new vaccine, which is considered an important change because foot-and-mouth is extremely infectious and because it is difficult to secure vaccine facilities that handle virus samples.

"It spreads like wild fire," David Stuart, who led the research and is a professor of biology at the University of Oxford, said, according to Reuters.

The fear of spread is not without basis. A 2007 outbreak of the disease in southeast England was traced to a nearby vaccine site.

The new vaccine, however, is made from synthetic empty protein shells that contain no infectious viral genome. Because of this production method, expensive biosecurity is not needed and the vaccine does not need to be kept refrigerated, Reuters reports.

"One of the big advantages is that since it is not derived from live virus, the production facility requires no special containment," Stuart said, according to Reuters. "One could imagine local plants being set up in large parts of the world where foot and mouth is endemic and where it still remains a huge problem."