So far humanity has successfully eradicated just two infectious diseases worldwide - one is smallpox, the other rinderpest. Rinderpest was a dreaded viral disease belonging to the same family as measles, infecting cattle and other ruminants. The symptoms included fever, dehydration and ulceration, with a mortality rate exceeding 80 per cent.
The Pirbright Institute, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, played a significant role in eradicating the disease by serving as the World Reference Laboratory for rinderpest.
Pirbright Institute scientists worked closely with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and other partners to understand why the disease persisted in populations, and to help create an effective vaccine and vaccination programme.
New vaccination technologies and strategies formed the heart of the final eradication campaign, and the disease was officially declared eradicated by the FAO in 2011.
A triumph for veterinary science, the eradication of rinderpest is estimated to save the economies of Africa around US$1 billion per year reducing famine and poverty in rural communities and increasing agricultural production throughout the developing world.
Image credit: The Pirbright Institute