Background: Understanding the epidemiology of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), including roles played by different hosts, is essential for improving disease control. The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a reservoir for the SAT serotypes of FMD virus (FMDV). Large buffalo populations commonly intermingle with livestock in Kenya, yet earlier studies have focused on FMD in the domestic livestock, hence the contribution of buffalo to disease in livestock is largely unknown. This study analysed 47 epithelia collected from FMD outbreaks in Kenyan cattle between 2008 and 2012, and 102 probang and serum samples collected from buffalo in three different Kenyan ecosystems; Maasai-Mara (MME) (n = 40), Tsavo (TSE) (n = 33), and Meru (ME) (n = 29).
Results: Antibodies against FMDV non-structural proteins were found in 65 of 102 (64%) sera from buffalo with 44/102 and 53/102 also having neutralising antibodies directed against FMDV SAT 1 and SAT 2, respectively. FMDV RNA was detected in 42% of the buffalo probang samples by RT-qPCR (Cycle Threshold (Ct) ≤32). Two buffalo probang samples were positive by VI and were identified as FMDV SAT 1 and SAT 2 by Ag-ELISA, while the latter assay detected serotypes O (1), A (20), SAT 1 (7) and SAT 2 (19) in the 47 cattle epithelia. VP1 coding sequences were generated for two buffalo and 21 cattle samples. Phylogenetic analyses revealed SAT 1 and SAT 2 virus lineages within buffalo that were distinct from those detected in cattle.
Conclusions: We found that FMDV serotypes O, A, SAT 1 and SAT 2 were circulating among cattle in Kenya and cause disease, but only SAT 1 and SAT 2 viruses were successfully isolated from clinically normal buffalo. The buffalo isolates were genetically distinct from isolates obtained from cattle. Control efforts should focus primarily on reducing FMDV circulation among livestock and limiting interaction with buffalo. Comprehensive studies incorporating additional buffalo viruses are recommended.