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Paradoxic pandemic: The inexorable spread of hand, foot and mouth disease

September 16, 2013

A transitional piece for me, I think, between the kind of corporate writing I’ve done to now, and the more creative ‘longform’ articles we’ll be doing in the future. Not entirely successful, but getting lots of hits because of the paucity of information about HFMD elsewhere…

Wellcome Trust Blog


As researchers describe a new way to make vaccines to fight diseases like foot and mouth disease in animals and polio in humans, we look at a related human viral infection called hand, foot and mouth disease. Recent outbreaks in Cambodia and Vietnam raise the prospect of what is often considered to be an innocuous childhood infection spreading further, causing increasingly severe illness, even deaths, and straining health systems around the world.

Much concern is rightly focused on influenza and the risk of pandemics, but there are other emerging and re-emerging infections that demand our attention. In this post, I look at hand, foot and mouth disease from various perspectives, taking in epidemiology, clinical medicine, structural biology, virology and public health, to try and understand what threat it presents, what we are doing to counter it, and what difference an effective vaccine would make.

It starts with a high temperature, though…

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