Rinderpest: Wikis


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Rinderpest virus
Virus classification
Group: Group V ((-)ssRNA)
Order: Mononegavirales
Family: Paramyxoviridae
Genus: Morbillivirus
Species: Rinderpest virus

Rinderpest is an infectious viral disease of cattle, domestic buffalo, and some species of wildlife. It is commonly referred to as cattle plague or steppe murrain. The disease is characterized by fever, oral erosions, diarrhea, lymphoid necrosis, and high mortality. The term Rinderpest is taken from German, and means cattle-plague.


The virus

As it is a Morbillivirus, the rinderpest virus (RPV) is closely related to the measles and canine distemper viruses.[1] Despite its extreme lethality, the germ is particularly fragile and is quickly inactivated by heat, desiccation and sunlight.[2]

The disease

Death rates during outbreaks are usually extremely high, approaching 100% in immunologically naive populations.[3] The disease is mainly spread by direct contact and by drinking contaminated water, although it can also be transmitted by air.[4]

Initial symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, and nasal and eye discharges. Subsequently, irregular erosions appear in the mouth, the lining of the nose, and the genital tract.[3] Acute diarrhea, preceded by constipation, is a common feature as well.[4] Most animals die 6–12 days after the onset of these clinical signs.[3]




Rinderpest outbreak in 18th century Netherlands

Cattle plagues recurred throughout history, often accompanying wars and military campaigns. It hit Europe especially hard in the 18th century, with three long pandemics which, although varying in intensity and duration from region to region, took place in the periods of 1709-1720, 1742-1760, and 1768-1786.[5] There was a major outbreak covering the whole of Britain in 1865/66. Later in history, an outbreak in the 1890s killed 80 to 90 percent of all cattle in Southern Africa, as well as the Horn of Africa. Sir Arnold Theiler was instrumental in developing a vaccine that curbed the epidemic. More recently, another rinderpest outbreak that raged across much of Africa in 1982-84 is estimated to have cost at least US$500 million in stock losses.


In the early 18th century, the disease was seen as similar to smallpox, due to its analogous symptoms. The personal physician of the Pope, Giovanni Maria Lancisi, recommended the slaughter of all infected and exposed animals. This policy was not very popular and used only sparingly in the first part of the century. Later, it was used successfully in several countries, although it was sometimes seen as too costly or drastic, and depended on a strong central authority to be effected (something which was notably lacking in the Dutch Republic). Because of these downsides, numerous attempts were made to inoculate animals against the disease. These attempts met with varying success, but the procedure was not widely used and was no longer practised at all in 19th-century Western or Central Europe. Rinderpest was an immense problem, but inoculation was not a valid solution: In many cases, it caused too many losses. Even more importantly, it perpetuated the circulation of the virus in the cattle population. The pioneers of inoculation did contribute significantly to our knowledge about infectious diseases. Their experiments confirmed the concepts of those who saw infectious diseases as caused by specific agents, and were the first to recognise maternally derived immunity.[1]

Early English experimentation

The first written report of rinderpest inoculation was published in a letter signed 'T.S.' in the November 1754 issue of Gentleman's Magazine,[1] a widely-read journal which also supported the progress of smallpox inoculation. This letter reported that a Mr. Dobsen had inoculated his cattle and had thus preserved nine out of ten of them, although this was retracted in the next issue as it was apparently a Sir William St. Quintin who had done the inoculating (this was done by placing bits of material previously dipped in morbid discharge into an incision made in the dewlap of the animal). These letters encouraged further application of inoculation in the fight against diseases. The first inoculation against measles was made three years after their publication.[1]

From early 1755 onwards, experiments were taking place in the Netherlands as well, results of which were also published in Gentleman's Magazine. As in England, the disease was seen as analogous with smallpox. While these experiments were reasonably successful, they did not have a significant impact: The total number of inoculations in England appears to have been very limited, and after 1780 the English interest in inoculation disappeared almost entirely.[1] Almost all further experimentation was done in the Netherlands, Northern Germany and Denmark.

Further trials in the Netherlands

Due to a very severe outbreak at the end of the 1760s, some of the biggest names in Dutch medicine became involved in the struggle against the disease. Several independent trials were begun, most notably by Pieter Camper in Groningen and Friesland. The results of his experiment in Friesland were encouraging, but they proved to be the exception: testing by others in the provinces of Utrecht, Leeuwarden and Friesland obtained disastrous results. As a result, the Friesian authorities concluded in 1769 that the cause of rinderpest was God's displeasure with the sinful behaviour of the Friesian people, and proclaimed 15 November a day of fasting and prayer. Interest in inoculation declined sharply across the country.[1]

In this climate of discouragement and scepticism, Geert Reinders, a farmer in the province of Groningen and a self-taught man, decided to continue the experiments. He collaborated with Wijnold Munniks, who had supervised earlier trials. They tried different inoculation procedures and a variety of treatments to lighten the symptoms, all of them without significant effect. Although they were not able to perfect the inoculation procedure, they did make some useful observations.[1]

Reinders resumed his experiments in 1774, concentrating on the inoculation of calves from cows that had recovered from rinderpest. He was probably the first to make practical use of maternally derived immunity.[1] The detailed results of his trials were published in 1776 and reprinted in 1777. His inoculation procedure did not differ much from what had been used previously, except for the use of three separate inoculations at an early age. This produced far better results, and the publication of his work renewed interest in inoculation. For the period of 1777 to 1781, 89% of inoculated animals survived, compared to a 29% survival rate after natural infection.[1]

In the Netherlands too, interest in rinderpest inoculation declined in the 1780s because the disease itself decreased in intensity.

In other countries

Apart from the Dutch republic, the only other regions where inoculation was used to any significant level were Northern Germany and Denmark. Experiments started in Mecklenburg during the epizootic of the late 1770s. 'Insurance companies' were created which provided inoculation in special 'institutes'. Although these were private initiatives, they were created with full encouragement from the authorities. Even though neighbouring states followed this practice with interest, the practice never caught on outside of Mecklenburg: many were still opposed to inoculation.[1]

While some experimentation occurred in other countries (most extensively in Denmark), in the majority of European countries the struggle against the disease was based on stomping it out. Sometimes this could be done with minimal sacrifices, at other times, it required slaughter at a massive scale.[1]

In ethnography

In his classic study of the Nuer of southern Sudan, E. E. Evans-Pritchard suggests that rinderpest might have affected the Nuer's social organization prior to and during the 1930s. Since the Nuer were pastoralists, much of their livelihood was based on cattle husbandry, and bride-prices were paid in cattle; prices may have changed as a result of cattle depletion. Rinderpest might also have increased dependence on horticulture among the Nuer.[6]


Dr. Walter Plowright was awarded the World Food Prize in 1999, for developing a vaccine against rinderpest. The Plowright vaccine was developed to the RBOK of the rinderpest virus.[7] The FAO predicts that with vaccination the cattle plague will be eradicated by 2010.[8]


In 2008, scientists involved in rinderpest eradication efforts believe there is a good chance that rinderpest may join smallpox as officially "wiped off the face of the planet".[9] Prior efforts, such as the Joint Project 15 in 1962 were very successful, but ended prematurely and the disease made dramatic comebacks. Subsequent eradication programs viz. PanAfrican Rinderpest eradication Campaign (PARC), PanAfrican Programme for Epizootics (PACE), and the Somali Ecosystem Rinderpest Eradication Co-ordination Unit (SERECU) have been instrumental in ridding the African continent of the disease. The Food and Agriculture Organization, who had been co-ordinating the global eradication program for the disease, announced in November 2009 that they expected the disease to be eradicated within 18 months.[10]

Use as a biological weapon

Rinderpest was one of more than a dozen agents that the United States researched as potential biological weapons before the nation suspended its biological weapons program.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Huygelen, C. (1997). "The Immunization of Cattle against Rinderpest in Eighteenth-Century Europe" (PDF). Medical History 41: 182–196. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1043905&blobtype=pdf. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  2. ^ http://www.iah.bbsrc.ac.uk/schools/factfiles/rinderpest.htm
  3. ^ a b c Exotic animal diseases - Rinderpest
  4. ^ a b FAO News and Highlights: Rinderpest - the toll and treatment of a plague
  5. ^ Broad, J. (1983). "Cattle Plague in Eighteenth-Century England" (PDF). Agricultural History Review 32(2): 104–115. http://www.bahs.org.uk/31n2a3.pdf. Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  6. ^ E. E. Evans-Pritchard. The Nuer: A description of the modes of livelihood and political institutions of a Nilotic people. Oxford UP. 1940.
  7. ^ Plowright, W. & Ferris, R. D. (1962). Studies with rinderpest virus in tissue culture. The use of attenuated culture virus as a vaccine for cattle. Res Vet Sci 3, 172–182.
  8. ^ Empres Transboundary Animal Diseases Bulletin No. 11 - RINDERPEST
  9. ^ Dennis Normile (2008). "RINDERPEST: Driven to Extinction". Science 319 (5870): 1606–1609. doi:10.1126/science.319.5870.1606. PMID 18356500. 
  10. ^ Platt, John (30 November 2009). "Cattle plague: An extinction worth celebrating". Scientific American. http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=cattle-plague-an-extinction-worth-c-2009-11-30. Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  11. ^ "Chemical and Biological Weapons: Possession and Programs Past and Present", James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury College, April 9, 2002. Retrieved November 14, 2008.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

Medical warning!
This article is from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Medical science has made many leaps forward since it has been written. This is not a site for medical advice, when you need information on a medical condition, consult a professional instead.

RINDERPEST (German for "cattle-plague," which is the English synonym), one of the most infectious and fatal diseases of oxen, sheep, goats, camels, buffaloes, yaks, deer, &c.; a virulent eruptive fever which runs its course so rapidly and attacks such a large percentage of ruminants when it is introduced into a country, that from the earliest times it has excited terror and dismay. It is an Asiatic malady, and has prevailed extensively in south Russia, central Asia, China, Indo-China, Burma, India, Persia, Ceylon and the Malay Archipelago. Thence it has at times been carried into Europe, and towards the end of the 19th century into South Africa. It appeared in Egypt in 1844 and 1865, Abyssinia in 1890, Japan in 1892, and the Philippines in 1898.

It has been noted that its irruptions into Europe in the earlier centuries of our era always coincided with invasions of barbarous tribes in the east of Europe; and even at a later period the disease accompanied the events of war, when troops with their commissariat moved from the east towards the west, or cattle, when they were carried in the same direction. One of the earliest recorded irruptions of cattle-plague into western Europe occurred in the 5th century after the sanguinary invasion of the Huns under Attila, the expulsion of the Goths from Hungary, and the fierce internecine wars of the whole Germanic population. The disease appears then to have been carried from Hungary through Austria to Dalmatia, while by Brabant it obtained access to the Low Countries, Picardy, and so on to the other provinces of France. In the curious poem De Mortibus Bovum written by St Severus, who lived at that period, the course and destructiveness of the disease are specially alluded to. Many invasions of Europe are described, and in several of these Britain was visited by it - as in 809-10, 986-87, 1223-25, 1513-14, and notably in 1713, 1 745, 1 774, 1 799. In 1865 and 1872 it was imported direct from Russia. In 1870-71 it destroyed 70,000 cattle in France, 30,000 in Alsace-Lorraine, and io,000 in Germany. In England an outbreak occurred in 1877, when it was imported from Germany, where the disease continued until 1879.

The infective agent has not been positively identified, but. it is known to exist in all the various secretions and excretions, in the flesh, blood and various organs of the body. Contagion may be direct or indirect, and the disease may be conveyed to healthy cattle by contaminated fodder, litter, water, clothing,. pasture, sheds, railway wagons, hides, horns and hoofs. Attendants, cats, dogs, birds, vermin and flies may spread the infection. Definite symptoms of the disease may not be recognized until the expiration of three to six days after exposure, the period of incubation.


Like some other general diseases, this does not. offer any exclusive or pathognomonic symptoms, but is rather characterized by a group of functional and anatomical alterations. An exact knowledge of its symptoms and necroscopical appearances is of the utmost importance, as its extension and consequent ravages can only be arrested through its timely recognition and the immediate adoption of the necessary sanitary measures. Intense fever, diarrhoea or dysentery, croupous inflammation of the mucous membranes in general, sometimes a cutaneous papular eruption, and great prostration mark the course of the affection, which is frequently most difficult to diagnose during life, especially if its presence is not suspected. Its introduction and mode of propagation can, in many instances, be ascertained only at a late period, and when great loss may already have been sustained. In the majority of cases the examination of the carcase of an animal which has died or been purposely killed is the best way to arrive at a correct diagnosis. Indeed, this is practically the only certain means of concluding as to the presence of the malady, as there are considerable variations in the chief symptoms with regard to their intensity as well as in the secondary symptoms or epiphenomena.

Among cattle indigenous to the regions in which this malady may be said to be enzootic the symptoms are often comparatively slight, and the mortality not great. So much is this the case that veterinary surgeons who can readily distinguish the disease when it affects the cattle of western Europe, can only with difficulty diagnose it in animals from Hungary, Bessarabia, Moldavia, or other countries where it is always more or less prevalent. In these the indications of fever are usually of brief duration, and signs of lassitude and debility are, in some instances, the only marks of the presence of this virulent disorder in animals which may, nevertheless, communicate the disease in its most deadly form to the cattle of other countries. Slight diarrhoea may also be present, and a cutaneous eruption, accompanied by gastric disturbance, running at the eyes, and occasional cough. In the more malignant form the fever runs high, 106° to 107° Fahr., and all the characteristic symptoms are well marked: dulness, sunken eyes, eruption on the skin, discharges from eyes, nose and mouth, shivering fits, difficult breathing, dry, harsh cough, miliary eruptions on the gums, accumulation of bran-like exudate within the lips, fetid breath, with certain nervous phenomena, and dysenteric dejections. Death generally occurs in four or five days, the course of the disorder being more rapid with animals kept in sheds than with those living in the open, and in summer than in winter. The post-mortem appearances are most marked in the digestive canal, and comprise red spots and erosions on the palate, lips, tongue and pharynx; intense congestion of the lining of the fourth stomach, which in places is covered with a grey or reddish pultaceous deposit, under which the membrane is deeply ulcerated. Similar lesions are seen in the small intestine, caecum and rectum. The membrane lining the air passages is congested throughout, and the lungs are emphysematous.

In recent years much has been done in Russia and India towards the prevention of rinderpest by inoculation and the use of immunizing sera. In South Africa the bile method (or the injection of bile obtained from cattle dead of rinderpest), discovered by Koch, in 1896; bile with admixture of glycerine, recommended by Edington; the simultaneous injection of serum and rinderpest blood, introduced by Turner and Kolle in 1897, and repeated injection of fortified serum alone, have been employed, more or less successfully, in conferring immunity. But elsewhere the main line of action has been in the direction of preventing the introduction of the disease by prohibiting the importation of cattle from infected countries.

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