The surface exposed capsid proteins, VP1, VP2 and VP3, of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) determine its antigenicity and the ability of the virus to interact with host-cell receptors. Hence, modification of these structural proteins may alter the properties of the virus. In the present study we compared the pathogenicity of different FMDVs in young pigs. In total 32 pigs, 7-weeks-old, were exposed to virus, either by direct inoculation or through contact with inoculated pigs, using cell culture adapted (O1K B64), chimeric (O1K/A-TUR and O1K/O-UKG) or field strain (O-UKG/34/2001) viruses. The O1K B64 virus and the two chimeric viruses are identical to each other except for the capsid coding region. Animals exposed to O1K B64 did not exhibit signs of disease, while pigs exposed to each of the other viruses showed typical clinical signs of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). All pigs infected with the O1K/O-UKG chimera or the field strain (O-UKG/34/2001) developed fulminant disease. Furthermore, 3 of 4 in-contact pigs exposed to the O1K/O-UKG virus died in the acute phase of infection, likely from myocardial infection. However, in the group exposed to the O1K/A-TUR chimeric virus, only 1 pig showed symptoms of disease within the time frame of the experiment (10 days). All pigs that developed clinical disease showed a high level of viral RNA in serum and infected pigs that survived the acute phase of infection developed a serotype specific antibody response. It is concluded that the capsid coding sequences are determinants of FMDV pathogenicity in pigs.
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