In Mongolia, outbreaks of food and mouth disease, caused by the foot and mouth disease virus, in the family picornaviridae, affects a wide range of mammals and cloven-hooved animals including: domestic sheep, goats, cattle, camels and Mongolian gazelles. This is a fatal disease, both economically and resource-wise, as about a third of the Mongolian population relies directly on livestock for survival.
Until recently, it was thought that the Mongolian gazelles were the main reservoir of this virus, however, the results of a recent study, entitled "Serosurveillance for Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Mongolian Gazelles (Procapra gutturosa) and Livestock on the Eastern Steppe of Mongolia", proved otherwise. The researchers involved in the study collected blood samples from 36 gazelle calves and 57 adult gazelles to identify the existence and quantity of antibodies to the virus in their blood. They also collected more blood samples from other domestic animals that were kept in areas frequented by gazelles. These included: 138 sheep, 140 goats, 139 Bactrian camels, and 138 cattle and were used as a comparison. They found that in general, the pattern of antibody prevalence in the blood of these gazelles reflected the dynamics of foot and mouth disease outbreaks: for instance, they saw that during 1998-1999, which was free of foot and mouth disease outbreak, no antibodies were to be found in the blood samples of these gazelles, whereas during an outbreak in 2001, there was about 67% prevalence of antibodies in these animals. The study further analyzed following outbreak-free periods, during which the level of antibodies in the gazelle population continued to decline.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that the Mongolian gazelles were not the natural reservoir for the foot and mouth disease virus, but instead, become infected after spillover from livestock during the sporadic outbreaks.