The Pirbright Institute publication directory contains details of selected publications written by our researchers.

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Smith L P, Petheridge L, Nair V, Wood A, Welchman D (2017)

Avian leukosis virus subgroup J-associated myelocytoma in a hobby chicken

Veterinary Record early view,


The avian leukosis viruses (ALVs) are a major group of retroviruses associated with neoplastic diseases in poultry. The ALV-J strain was identified as a cause of myelocytomas in broiler breeder and broiler chickens in the UK in the 1980s; however, following eradication of the virus,commercial broilers have remained free of infection since the early 2000s. A pet chicken was submitted to Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in 2013 with a history of croaking respirations, abnormality of the left eye and apparent paralysis. Postmortem examination of the bird showed widespread tumour-like infiltration of many organs, including the pectoral muscles, internal organs, sternum and ribs. Histopathological examination of the affected tissues revealed myelocytoma formation typical of the lesions associated with ALV-J, and the virus was confirmed by PCR testing and sequencing. Virus was not detected in blood samples in the other five chickens remaining in the flock. The source of infection was not established. This was the first time ALV-J had been seen in the UK since its eradicationand the case highlights the importance of continued surveillance of backyard and hobby chickens to detect potential new and re-emerging disease threats, such as ALV-J, which may be of significance to the wider poultry population.

Shabbir M Z, Sohail M U, Chaudhary U N, Yaqub W, Rashid I, Saleem M H, Munir M (2017)

Genetic characterization of canine parvovirus from dogs in Pakistan

Acta Virologica 61 (2), 175-182


Canine parvoviruses (CPV) exist as antigenic variants with varying frequencies and genetic variabilities across the globe. Given the endemicity and high prevalence in Pakistan, we characterized the CPVs originating from dogs-population to elucidate viral diversity and evolution. Fecal samples from clinically diseased pups (n = 17) of different breeds and age (2-6 months) were processed for hemagglutination assay (HA), and later for partial amplification of VP2 gene sequence and amino acid analysis. A total of 11 samples (64.71%) were found positive both in hemagglutination and PCR assays. Phylogenetic and evolutionary analysis demonstrated higher genetic heterogeneity in studied strains and constituted seven clusters within the CPV-2a group, however, they shared high level of identity with Chinese strains. Further studies are necessary to elucidate genetic analysis and epidemiology of CPV variants across a wide geographical area of the country.

Mahapatra M, Upadhyaya S, Aviso S, Babu A, Hutchings G, Parida S (2017)

Selection of vaccine strains for serotype O foot-and-mouth disease viruses (2007-2012) circulating in Southeast Asia, East Asia and Far East

Vaccine early view,


Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is endemic in Southeast Asia (SEA) and East Asia with circulation of multiple serotypes and multiple genotypes within each serotype of the virus. Although countries like Japan and South Korea in the Far East were free of FMD, in 2010 FMD serotype O (O/Mya-98) outbreaks were recorded and since then South Korea has experienced several FMD outbreaks despite regular vaccination. In this study a total of 85 serotype O FMD viruses (FMDV) isolated from 2007 to 2012 from SEA, East Asia and Far East were characterized by virus neutralisation tests using antisera to four existing (O/HKN/6/83, O/IND/R2/75, O/SKR/2010 and O/PanAsia-2) and one putative (O/MYA/2009) vaccine strains, and by full capsid sequencing. Serological studies revealed broad cross-reactivity with the vaccine strains; O/PanAsia-2 exhibited a good match with 95.3%, O/HKN/6/83 with 91.8%, O/IND/R2/75 with 80%, and the putative strain O/MYA/2009 with 89.4% isolates employed in this study. Similarly O/PanAsia-2 and O/IND/R2/75 vaccines showed a good match with all eight viruses belonging to O-Ind-2001d sublineage whereas the vaccines of O/Mya-98 lineage, O/MYA/2009 and O/SKR/2010 exhibited the lowest match indicating their unsuitability to protect infections from O-Ind-2001d viruses. A Bayesian analysis of the capsid sequence data indicated these circulating viruses (n?=?85) to be of either SEA or Middle East-South Asian (ME-SA) topotype. The ME-SA topotype viruses were mainly detected in Lao PDR, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand reflecting the trade links with the Indian subcontinent, and also within the SEA countries. Implications of these results in the context of FMD control in SEA and East Asian countries are discussed.

Dulwich K L, Giotis E S, Gray A, Nair V, Skinner M A, Broadbent A J (2017)

Differential gene expression in chicken primary B cells infected ex vivo with attenuated and very virulent strains of infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV)

Journal of General Virology early view,


Infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) belongs to the family Birnaviridae and is economically important to the poultry industry worldwide. IBDV infects B cells in the bursa of Fabricius (BF), causing immunosuppression and morbidity in young chickens. In addition to strains that cause classical Gumboro disease, the so-called ‘very virulent’ (vv) strain, also in circulation, causes more severe disease and increased mortality. IBDV has traditionally been controlled through the use of live attenuated vaccines, with attenuation resulting from serial passage in non-lymphoid cells. However, the factors that contribute to the vv or attenuated phenotypes are poorly understood. In order to address this, we aimed to investigate host cell–IBDV interactions using a recently described chicken primary B-cell model, where chicken B cells are harvested from the BF and cultured ex vivo in the presence of chicken CD40L. We demonstrated that these cells could support the replication of IBDV when infected ex vivo in the laboratory. Furthermore, we evaluated the gene expression profiles of B cells infected with an attenuated strain (D78) and a very virulent strain (UK661) by microarray. We found that key genes involved in B-cell activation and signalling (TNFSF13B, CD72 and GRAP) were down-regulated following infection relative to mock, which we speculate could contribute to IBDV-mediated immunosuppression. Moreover, cells responded to infection by expressing antiviral type I IFNs and IFN-stimulated genes, but the induction was far less pronounced upon infection with UK661, which we speculate could contribute to its virulence.

Leftwich P T, Nash W J, Friend L A, Chapman T (2017)

Adaptation to divergent larval diets in the medfly, Ceratitis capitata

Evolution 71 (2), 289-303


Variation in diet can influence the timing of major life-history events and can drive population diversification and ultimately speciation. Proximate responses of life histories to diet have been well studied. However, there are scant experimental data on how organisms adapt to divergent diets over the longer term. We focused on this omission by testing the responses of a global pest, the Mediterranean fruitfly, to divergent selection on larval diets of different nutritional profiles. Tests conducted before and after 30 generations of nutritional selection revealed a complex interplay between the effects of novel larval dietary conditions on both plastic and evolved responses. There were proximate-only responses to the larval diet in adult male courtship and the frequency of copulation. Males on higher calorie larval diets consistently engaged in more bouts of energetic courtship. In contrast, following selection, larval development time, and egg to adult survival showed evidence of evolved divergence between diet regimes. Adult body size showed evidence for adaptation, with flies being significantly heavier when reared on their "own" diet. The results show the multifaceted responses of individuals to dietary selection and are important in understanding the extreme generalism exhibited by the medfly.

Longdon B, Day J P, Schulz N, Leftwich P T, de Jong M A, Breuker C J, Gibbs M, Obbard D J, Wilfert L, Smith S C L (2017)

Vertically transmitted rhabdoviruses are found across three insect families and have dynamic interactions with their hosts

Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 284 (1847), 20162381


A small number of free-living viruses have been found to be obligately vertically transmitted, but it remains uncertain how widespread vertically transmitted viruses are and how quickly they can spread through host populations. Recent metagenomic studies have found several insects to be infected with sigma viruses (Rhabdoviridae). Here, we report that sigma viruses that infect Mediterranean fruit flies (Ceratitis capitata), Drosophila immigrans, and speckled wood butterflies (Pararge aegeria) are all vertically transmitted. We find patterns of vertical transmission that are consistent with those seen in Drosophila sigma viruses, with high rates of maternal transmission, and lower rates of paternal transmission. This mode of transmission allows them to spread rapidly in populations, and using viral sequence data we found the viruses in D. immigrans and C. capitata had both recently swept through host populations. The viruses were common in nature, with mean prevalences of 12% in C. capitata, 38% in D. immigrans and 74% in P. aegeria. We conclude that vertically transmitted rhabdoviruses may be widespread in a broad range of insect taxa, and that these viruses can have dynamic interactions with their hosts.

Soubies S M, Courtillon C, Abed M, Amelot M, Keita A, Broadbent A, Hartle S, Kaspers B, Eterradossi N (2017)

Propagation and titration of infectious bursal disease virus, including non-cell-culture-adapted strains, using ex vivo stimulated chicken bursal cells

Avian Pathology early view,


Infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) is a Birnaviridae family member of economic importance for poultry. This virus infects and destroys developing B lymphocytes in the cloacal bursa, resulting in a potentially fatal or immunosuppressive disease in chickens. Naturally-occurring viruses and many vaccine strains are not able to grow in in vitro systems without prior adaptation, which process often affects viral properties such as virulence. Primary bursal cells, which are the main target cells of lymphotropic IBDV in vivo, may represent an attractive system for the study of IBDV. Unfortunately, bursal cells isolated from bursal follicles undergo apoptosis within hours following their isolation. Here we demonstrate that ex vivo stimulation of bursal cells with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) maintains their viability long enough to allow IBDV replication to high titers. A wide range of field-derived or vaccine serotype 1 IBDV strains could be titrated in these PMA-stimulated bursal cells and furthermore were permissive for replication of non-cell-culture-adapted viruses. These cells also supported multistep replication experiments and flow-cytometry analysis of infection. Ex vivo stimulated bursal cells therefore offer a promising tool in the study of IBDV.

Schulz C, Sailleau C, Bréard E, Flannery J, Viarouge C, Zientara S, Beer M, Batten C, Hoffmann B (2017)

Experimental infection of sheep, goats and cattle with a bluetongue virus serotype 4 field strain from Bulgaria, 2014

Transboundary and Emerging Diseases early view,


In 2014, a new bluetongue virus serotype 4 (BTV-4) strain was detected in southern Greece and spread rapidly throughout the Balkan Peninsula and adjacent countries. Within half a year, more than 7,068 outbreaks were reported in ruminants, particularly in sheep. However, the reported morbidity and case fatality rates in ruminants varied. The pathogenesis of a Bulgarian BTV-4 strain isolated from sheep during the BTV-4 epizootic was studied in different species. Therefore, four sheep, three goats and three cattle were experimentally infected with the isolate BTV-4/BUL2014/15 and monitored for clinical signs up to several weeks. Serum and whole-blood samples were collected at regular intervals and subjected to serological and virological analyses. In this context, BTV-4-specific real-time RT-PCR assays were developed. The infection kinetics were similar to those known for other traditional BTV serotypes, and only mild BT-like clinical signs were observed in goats and sheep. In cattle, no obvious clinical signs were observed, except a transient increase in body temperature. The study results contrast with the severe clinical signs reported in sheep experimentally infected with an African BTV-4 strain and with the reports of BT-like clinical signs in a considerable proportion of different ruminant species infected with BTV-4 in the Balkan region and Italy. The discrepancies between the results of these animal trials and observations of BTV-4 infection in the field may be explained by the influence of various factors on the manifestation of BT disease, such as animal breed, fitness and virus strain, as described previously.

Reddy Y V, Susmitha B, Patil S, Krishnajyothi Y, Putty K, Ramakrishna K V, Sunitha G, Devi B V, Kavitha K, Deepthi B, Krovvidi S, Reddy Y N, Reddy G H, Singh K P, Maan N S, Hemadri D, Maan S, Mertens P P, Hegde N R, Rao P P (2017)

Isolation and evolutionary analysis of Australasian topotype of bluetongue virus serotype 4 from India

Transboundary and Emerging Diseases early view,


Bluetongue (BT) is a Culicoides-borne disease caused by several serotypes of bluetongue virus (BTV). Similar to other insect-borne viral diseases, distribution of BT is limited to distribution of Culicoides species competent to transmit BTV. In the tropics, vector activity is almost year long, and hence, the disease is endemic, with the circulation of several serotypes of BTV, whereas in temperate areas, seasonal incursions of a limited number of serotypes of BTV from neighbouring tropical areas are observed. Although BTV is endemic in all the three major tropical regions (parts of Africa, America and Asia) of the world, the distribution of serotypes is not alike. Apart from serological diversity, geography-based diversity of BTV genome has been observed, and this is the basis for proposal of topotypes. However, evolution of these topotypes is not well understood. In this study, we report the isolation and characterization of several BTV-4 isolates from India. These isolates are distinct from BTV-4 isolates from other geographical regions. Analysis of available BTV seg-2 sequences indicated that the Australasian BTV-4 diverged from African viruses around 3,500 years ago, whereas the American viruses diverged relatively recently (1,684 CE). Unlike Australasia and America, BTV-4 strains of the Mediterranean area evolved through several independent incursions. We speculate that independent evolution of BTV in different geographical areas over long periods of time might have led to the diversity observed in the current virus population.

Lloyd-Jones K, Mahapatra M, Upadhyaya S, Paton D J, Babu A, Hutchings G, Parida S (2017)

Genetic and antigenic characterization of serotype O FMD viruses from East Africa for the selection of suitable vaccine strain

Vaccine early view,


Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is endemic in Eastern Africa with circulation of multiple serotypes of the virus in the region. Most of the outbreaks are caused by serotype O followed by serotype A. The lack of concerted FMD control programmes in Africa has provided little incentive for vaccine producers to select vaccines that are tailored to circulating regional isolates creating further negative feedback to deter the introduction of vaccine-based control schemes. In this study a total of 80 serotype O FMD viruses (FMDV) isolated from 1993 to 2012 from East and North Africa were characterized by virus neutralisation tests using bovine antisera to three existing (O/KEN/77/78, O/Manisa and O/PanAsia-2) and three putative (O/EA/2002, O/EA/2009 and O/EA/2010) vaccine strains and by capsid sequencing. Genetically, these viruses were grouped as either of East African origin with subdivision into four topotypes (EA-1, 2, 3 and 4) or of Middle-East South Asian (ME-SA) topotype. The ME-SA topotype viruses were mainly detected in Egypt and Libya reflecting the trade links with the Middle East countries. There was good serological cross-reactivity between the vaccine strains and most of the field isolates analysed, indicating that vaccine selection should not be a major constraint for control of serotype O FMD by vaccination, and that both local and internationally available commercial vaccines could be used. The O/KEN/77/78 vaccine, commonly used in the region, exhibited comparatively lower percent in vitro match against the predominant topotypes (EA-2 and EA-3) circulating in the region whereas O/PanAsia-2 and O/Manisa vaccines revealed broader protection against East African serotype O viruses, even though they genetically belong to the ME-SA topotype.


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