BREEDS like Angus and Herefords in southern states are expected to be more susceptible to lumpy skin disease than their Bos Indicus counterparts.
Authorities are hoping vaccination will be the primary response in the event of an outbreak and cattle producers have thrown their support behind infectious disease experts having access to live samples so they can develop an mRNA vaccine.
However, movement control and quarantine of cattle, sanitary disposal of carcasses and decontamination of surfaces and equipment, along with measures to restrict insect travel, will also be critical, authorities said.
Biosecurity experts at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said novel strains of the virus had emerged overseas recently, the behaviour of which was not well known.
That presents a risk for spread to other livestock species, such as sheep.
Asian water buffalo are also susceptible, so the disease has the potential to become endemic in northern Australia if it becomes established there, a departmental spokesperson said.
Lumpy skin virus is a large, enveloped, double-stranded DNA virus of the genus Capripoxvirus and family Poxviridae. Other diseases caused by capripoxviruses include sheep and goat pox.
It was first described in southern Africa and has since spread northwards through most of sub-Saharan Africa.
DAWE information indicates it has become endemic in Turkey and has spread throughout the Middle East, the Southern Russian Federation and the Balkan Peninsula. Currently there is an increased risk of it reaching Central Asia, Western Europe and Central Europe.
DAWE experts said transmission was primarily associated with mechanical transfer by a range of biting arthropod vectors. Other routes, such as direct contact, fomites and contaminated feed sources, are also possible but much less likely.
Long distance spread through the movement of infected cattle and vectors was a definite possibility.
Experimental transmission of lumpy skin has been shown in multiple arthropod species including mosquitos, blood-sucking ticks such as Rhipicephalus appendiculatus and biting flies such as Stomoxys calcitrans2, the DAWE spokesperson said.
Authorities have, however, noted the presence of vectors would vary between regions, and vector survival and spread would be dependent on favourable environmental conditions such as humidity and warm weather.
Transmission through milk and semen was also possible.
Meanwhile, Cattle Council of Australia has requested the Federal Government approve the controlled importation of live lumpy skin disease samples, so CSIRO can get to work on a vaccine.
President Markus Rathsmann said an mRNA vaccine would be a powerful tool in preventing an outbreak in Australia.
"If the disease makes its way to Australia, it could destroy the viability of a $40 billion red meat industry that exports over 70 per cent of produce to world markets," he said.
"An outbreak in Australia would see dozens of countries close the door to trade with Australia."
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The work would be done at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, a purpose-built world-class facility designed to manage research for annual disease and viruses.
"mRNA vaccines do not contain the live virus but scientists need samples so we can learn to fight it," Mr Rathsmann said.
"Some simple vaccines have been developed overseas, but they carry an unacceptable risk of actually spreading the virus and other contaminants.
"If Australia can develop a safer, single-shot mRNA vaccine it will be a game-changer here and overseas.
"Our best chance at preventing a Lumpy Skin Disease outbreak is to help bring it under control in Indonesia, limiting the opportunity for it to spread further."
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Shan Goodwin steers ACM’s national coverage of the beef industry. Shan has worked as a journalist for 30 years, the majority of that with agricultural publications. She spent many years as The Land’s North Coast reporter and has visited beef properties and stations throughout the country and overseas. She treats all breeds equally.
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