The virulent strand of foot and mouth disease presently affecting the UK has been traced back more than 10 years to India.

Nick Knowles of the Institute for Animal Health’s explains in the latest edition of research journal The Veterinary Record that the so-called PanAsia strain, which reached Britain last month, can be tracked down to an outbreak in 1990 in northern India.

“(From India) it spread westward to Saudi Arabia, probably with the trade in live sheep and goats, and then moved into neighbouring countries so that by 1996 it reached Turkey,” Knowles reports.

Greece and Bulgaria have also reported that the same strain of the virus affected outbreaks of foot and mouth in their livestock. Major outbreaks of the disease in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula are all due to the same strain.

The strain has also been found in the Far East with China, South Korea and Japan reporting cases of foot and mouth. South Africa is the last known country to have reported the virulent stain amongst its livestock.

The highly infectious livestock virus, which can be carried by the wind, clothing, objects or people or tyres, has hit British agriculture hard with over 81 cases of the disease now discovered.