College of Veterinary Medicine

Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology

Malignant Catarrhal Fever (MCF)

This site is dedicated to Malignant Catarrhal Fever (MCF), on which a major research effort has been underway for about 15 years at Washington State University (WSU). The site includes a general description of the disease, detailed information about work done here, recent research progress here and elsewhere, information relating to MCF diagnosis and control, and links to other sources of MCF information.  

MCF, a disease syndrome primarily of ruminant species, is caused by a member of an expanding group of Rhadinoviruses in the Gammaherpesvirinae subfamily. These viruses exist in nature as inapparent infections in well-adapted ruminants that act as reservoir hosts. MCF is increasingly being recognized as the cause of significant economic losses in several major ruminant species, including cattle, bison and deer, as well as a threat to certain threatened species held in mixed-species confinement. Most cases in the U.S. are caused by the virus known as ovine herpesvirus 2 (OvHV-2), which exists as a ubiquitous subclinical infection in domestic sheep. Historically, control of MCF has been hampered by a lack of knowledge of its etiology, epidemiology, and pathogenesis. That is changing. This site is designed to help persons interested in MCF to stay abreast of the developments underlying that change.

MCF research at Washington State University is funded by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), by Washington State University, and through extramural grants. It is conducted through a joint effort by the Animal Disease Research Unit, USDA-ARS and the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, WSU. Other actively collaborating institutions include the University of Wyoming, the US Sheep Experiment Station, and several other institutes in North America and Europe.

The overall purpose of the project is to generate information needed to understand and control MCF. The objectives are to develop improved diagnostic methods for the MCF virus group, to define the disease’s etiology, epidemiology and pathogenesis, to propagate OvHV-2 in vitro, and to develop methods for MCF control.

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