How to resolve conflict in Science: On FMDV classification problem

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Scientists form hypothesis, formulate experiments and publish their results. But not all researchers agree to the same conclusion. Hence, comes scientific-conflict. How to resolve that? Publish and exchange opinions!

Recently, scientific debate and exchange of opinions came to my attention. Back in Bangladesh during and after my MS study in Microbiology at the University of Dhaka, I was affiliated with Dr. M Anwar Hossain’s FMDV research project (Microbial Genetics and Bioinformatics Lab). In that project, Dr. Hossain lead the research on Foot-and-Mouth disease virus detection and vaccine development. Briefly speaking, this is a very dangerous viral disease of cattle and cause several million dollar loss in agro-veterinary economy in Bangladesh.

Figere 3 from Siddique et al. 2018 shows that proposed sub-lineage Ind2001BD1 and BD2 do not fall into established genotypes. Source: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/tbed.12834

The FMD is an RNA-virus and it evolves very fast due to higher mutational rate. Classifying newly emerged FMD virus can be a complex task. I co-authored a paper (Siddique et al. 2018) on which the research group detected two novel sub-lineage of FMDV virus, namely Ind2001BD1 and BD2. We have used distance-based clustering method (multi-dimensional clustering: novel in this field but widely used for classification) as well as more traditional phylogenetic method to establish and propose this. In this point, I should mention that there is a world reference laboratory for FMDV characterization (WRLFMD), but FMDV strains isolated by Siddique et al. 2018 did not fall into the classification maintained by them.

But another study from a Chinese group (Zhu et al. 2018) used the virus sequences isolated by Siddique et al. (2018) and classified it under Ind2001d sub-lineage using traditional methods. This is conflicting since a single strain cannot be classified into two different class. Therefore, lead by another young researcher in the research-group Rubayet recently published a letter to editor (Alam et al. 2019). They argued why the classification of Zhu et al. 2018 is not appropriate and the newly emerged virus should have its own lineage so that it can get enough attention for further surveillance of FMDV spread across regions of south-east Asia and China.

The beauty of scientific debate is Dr. Zhu responded in another article (Zhu et al. 2019) where he agrees about the correction. Besides, they also suggested that rather naming BD1 and BD2, it’s better to name alphabetically and follow world reference library guideline convention. Finally, they have referred other relevant works regarding FMDV classification and also mentioned that WRLFMD (World Reference Laboratory for Foot-and-Mouth Disease) undergoing review of FMDV classification and adding new sub-lineage including the debated ones.

This is great to see that research group(s) in Bangladesh are not only publishing regularly in world renowned journals, but also initiating and participating conflict-resolving communication between scientific community. Also, I saw this as a major contribution of Dr. Anwar Hossain’s FMDV research group in progress of scientific practice of Bangladesh.

References:

1. Siddique MA, Ali MR, Alam ASMRU, et al. Emergence of two novel sublineages Ind2001BD1 and Ind2001BD2 of foot‐and‐mouth disease virus serotype O in Bangladesh. Transbound Emerg Dis. 2018;65:1009–1023. https://doi.org/10.1111/tbed.12834
2. Z. Zhu, F. Yang, J. He, J. Li, W. Cao, J. Li, Y. Xia, J. Guo, Y. Jin, K. Zhang, H. Zheng and X. Liu, First detection of foot‐and‐mouth disease virus O/ME‐SA/Ind2001 in China, Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, 65, 6, (2027-2031), (2018).Wiley Online Library
3. A. S. M. R. U. Alam, M. R. Ali and M. A. Hossain, Letter to the editor about the classification of recently emerged foot‐and‐mouth disease virus O/ME‐SA/Ind2001 sublineages concerning two published articles in Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, , (2019).Wiley Online Library
4. Zixiang Zhu, Jijun He, Fan Yang, Haixue Zheng and Xiangtao Liu, Response to comment on “First detection of foot‐and‐mouth disease virus O/ME‐SA/Ind2001 in China”, Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, , (2019).Wiley Online Library



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