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

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Arias M, de la Torre A, Dixon L, Gallardo C, Jori F, Laddomada A, Martins C, Parkhouse R M, Revilla Y, Rodriguez F A J, Sanchez V (2017)

Approaches and perspectives for development of African swine fever virus vaccines

Vaccines (Basel) 5 (4),


African swine fever (ASF) is a complex disease of swine, caused by a large DNA virus belonging to the family Asfarviridae. The disease shows variable clinical signs, with high case fatality rates, up to 100%, in the acute forms. ASF is currently present in Africa and Europe where it circulates in different scenarios causing a high socio-economic impact. In most affected regions, control has not been effective in part due to lack of a vaccine. The availability of an effective and safe ASFV vaccines would support and enforce control-eradication strategies. Therefore, work leading to the rational development of protective ASF vaccines is a high priority. Several factors have hindered vaccine development, including the complexity of the ASF virus particle and the large number of proteins encoded by its genome. Many of these virus proteins inhibit the host's immune system thus facilitating virus replication and persistence. We review previous work aimed at understanding ASFV-host interactions, including mechanisms of protective immunity, and approaches for vaccine development. These include live attenuated vaccines, and "subunit" vaccines, based on DNA, proteins, or virus vectors. In the shorter to medium term, live attenuated vaccines are the most promising and best positioned candidates. Gaps and future research directions are evaluated.

Almansa R, Martínez-Orellana P, Rico L, Iglesias V, Ortega A, Vidaña B, Martínez J, Expósito A, Montoya M, Bermejo-Martin J F (2017)

Pulmonary transcriptomic responses indicate a dual role of inflammation in pneumonia development and viral clearance during 2009 pandemic influenza infection

PeerJ 5, e3915
Publisher’s version:


The interaction between influenza virus and the host response to infection clearly plays an important role in determining the outcome of infection. While much is known on the participation of inflammation on the pathogenesis of severe A (H1N1) pandemic 09-influenza virus, its role in the course of non-fatal pneumonia has not been fully addressed. Methods: A systems biology approach was used to define gene expression profiles, histology and viral dynamics in the lungs of healthy immune-competent mice with pneumonia caused by a human influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 virus, which successfully resolved the infection. Results: Viral infection activated a marked pro-inflammatory response at the lung level paralleling the emergence of histological changes. Cellular immune response and cytokine signaling were the two signaling pathway categories more representative of our analysis. This transcriptome response was associated to viral clearance, and its resolution was accompanied by resolution of histopathology. Discussion: These findings suggest a dual role of pulmonary inflammation in viral clearance and development of pneumonia during non-fatal infection caused by the 2009 pandemic influenza virus. Understanding the dynamics of the host’s transcriptomic and virological changes over the course of the infection caused by A (H1N1) pdm09 virus may help identifying the immune response profiles associated with an effective response against influenza virus.

Rajko-Nenow P Z, Cunliffe T G, Flannery J T, Ropiak H M, Avaliani L, Donduashvili M, Baron M D, Batten C A (2017)

Complete genome sequence of peste des petits ruminants virus from Georgia, 2016

Genome Announcements 5 (41),


We report here the complete genome sequence of a peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) from the first outbreak of the disease in Georgia in January 2016. Genome sequencing was performed using Illumina next-generation sequencing technology in conjunction with Sanger sequencing. This PPRV/Georgia/Tbilisi/2016 genome sequence clustered within lineage IV PPRV viruses.

Baron M D, Diop B, Njeumi F, Willett B J, Bailey D (2017)

Future research to underpin successful peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) eradication

Journal of General Virology 98 (11), 2635-2644


Peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) is a significant pathogen of small ruminants and is prevalent in much of Africa, the Near and Middle East and Asia. Despite the availability of an efficacious and cheap live-attenuated vaccine, the virus has continued to spread, with its range stretching from Morocco in the west to China and Mongolia in the east. Some of the world's poorest communities rely on small ruminant farming for subsistence and the continued endemicity of PPRV is a constant threat to their livelihoods. Moreover, PPRV's effects on the world's population are felt broadly across many economic, agricultural and social situations. This far-reaching impact has prompted the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to develop a global strategy for the eradication of this virus and its disease. PPRV is a morbillivirus and, given the experience of these organizations in eradicating the related rinderpest virus, the eradication of PPRV should be feasible. However, there are many critical areas where basic and applied virological research concerning PPRV is lacking. The purpose of this review is to highlight areas where new research could be performed in order to guide and facilitate the eradication programme. These areas include studies on disease transmission and epidemiology, the existence of wildlife reservoirs and the development of next-generation vaccines and diagnostics. With the support of the international virology community, the successful eradication of PPRV can be achieved.

Brown-Joseph T, Batten C, Harrup L E, Frost L, Flannery J, Hicks H, Ramkissoon V, Ramdeen R, Carrington C V, Oura C A L (2017)

Bluetongue virus infection in naïve cattle: identification of circulating serotypes and associated Culicoides biting midge species in Trinidad

Veterinary Microbiology 211, 1-5


To better understand risks associated with trading cattle, it is important to know which serotypes of Bluetongue virus (BTV) are circulating within the exporting and importing country. Hence, this study was conducted to identify the circulating serotypes of BTV in Trinidad. Blood samples were collected monthly from sixty BTV- naïve imported cattle over a six month period after their arrival in the country. Virological (PCR and virus isolation) and serological (ELISA) analyses were carried out on the samples and CDC light traps were placed near the cattle enclosure to trap and identify the species of Culicoides biting midges that were present. All of the cattle seroconverted for BTV antibodies within three months of their arrival in the country and real-time reverse transcription PCR (rRT-PCR) detected BTV-RNA in the samples throughout the remainder of the study. The patterns of infection observed in the cattle indicated serial infections with multiple serotypes. A combination of BTV serotype-specific rRT-PCR on the original blood samples and virus isolation followed by serotype-specific rRT-PCR on selected samples, confirmed the presence of BTV serotypes 1, 2, 3, 5, 12 and 17. This is the first report of BTV-2 and BTV-5 in Trinidad. Light-suction traps placed in close proximity to the cattle predominantly trapped Culicoides insignis Lutz 1913 species (96%), with a further six Culicoides species making up the remaining 4% of trapped samples. The circulation of multiple BTV serotypes in Trinidad underlines the need for regular surveillance, which will contribute to the development of risk assessments for trade in livestock.

Logan G, Newman J, Wright C F, Lasecka-Dykes L, Haydon D T, Cottam E M, Tuthill T J (2017)

Deep sequencing of foot-and-mouth disease virus reveals RNA sequences involved in genome packaging

Journal of Virology early view,


Non-enveloped viruses protect their genomes by packaging them into an outer shell or capsid of virus-encoded proteins. Packaging and capsid assembly in RNA viruses can involve interactions between capsid proteins and secondary structures in the viral genome as exemplified by the RNA bacteriophage MS2 and as proposed for other RNA viruses of plants, animals and human. In the picornavirus family of non-enveloped RNA viruses, the requirements for genome packaging remain poorly understood. Here we show a novel and simple approach to identify predicted RNA secondary structures involved in genome packaging in the picornavirus foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV). By interrogating deep sequencing data generated from both packaged and unpackaged populations of RNA we have determined multiple regions of the genome with constrained variation in the packaged population. Predicted secondary structures of these regions revealed stem loops with conservation of structure and a common motif at the loop. Disruption of these features resulted in attenuation of virus growth in cell culture due to a reduction in assembly of mature virions. This study provides evidence for the involvement of predicted RNA structures in picornavirus packaging and offers a readily transferable methodology for identifying packaging requirements in many other viruses.Importance In order to transmit their genetic material to a new host, non-enveloped viruses must protect their genomes by packaging them into an outer shell or capsid of virus-encoded proteins. For many non-enveloped RNA viruses the requirements for this critical part of the viral life cycle remain poorly understood. We have identified RNA sequences involved in genome packaging of the picornavirus foot-and-mouth disease virus. This virus causes an economically devastating disease of livestock affecting both the developed and developing world. The experimental methods developed to carry out this work are novel, simple and transferable to the study of packaging signals in other RNA viruses. Improved understanding of RNA packaging may lead to novel vaccine approaches or targets for antiviral drugs with broad spectrum activity.

Chengat Prakashbabu B, Thenmozhi V, Limon G, Kundu K, Kumar S, Garg R, Clark E L, Srinivasa Rao A S, Raj D G, Raman M, Banerjee P S, Tomley F M, Guitian J, Blake D P (2017)

Eimeria species occurrence varies between geographic regions and poultry production systems and may influence parasite genetic diversity

Veterinary Parasitology 233, 62-72


Coccidiosis is one of the biggest challenges faced by the global poultry industry. Recent studies have highlighted the ubiquitous distribution of all Eimeria species which can cause this disease in chickens, but intriguingly revealed a regional divide in genetic diversity and population structure for at least one species, Eimeria tenella. The drivers associated with such distinct geographic variation are unclear, but may impact on the occurrence and extent of resistance to anticoccidial drugs and future subunit vaccines. India is one of the largest poultry producers in the world and includes a transition between E. tenella populations defined by high and low genetic diversity. The aim of this study was to identify risk factors associated with the prevalence of Eimeria species defined by high and low pathogenicity in northern and southern states of India, and seek to understand factors which vary between the regions as possible drivers for differential genetic variation. Faecal samples and data relating to farm characteristics and management were collected from 107 farms from northern India and 133 farms from southern India. Faecal samples were analysed using microscopy and PCR to identify Eimeria occurrence. Multiple correspondence analysis was applied to transform correlated putative risk factors into a smaller number of synthetic uncorrelated factors. Hierarchical cluster analysis was used to identify poultry farm typologies, revealing three distinct clusters in the studied regions. The association between clusters and presence of Eimeria species was assessed by logistic regression. The study found that large-scale broiler farms in the north were at greatest risk of harbouring any Eimeria species and a larger proportion of such farms were positive for E. necatrix, the most pathogenic species. Comparison revealed a more even distribution for E. tenella across production systems in south India, but with a lower overall occurrence. Such a polarised region- and system-specific distribution may contribute to the different levels of genetic diversity observed previously in India and may influence parasite population structure across much of Asia and Africa. The findings of the study can be used to prioritise target farms to launch and optimise appropriate anticoccidial strategies for long-term control.

Limon G, Beauvais W, Dadios N, Villena I, Cockle C, Blaga R, Guitian J (2017)

Cross-sectional study of Toxoplasma gondii infection in pig farms in England

Foodborne Pathogens and Diseases 14 (5), 269-281


Ingestion of undercooked meat has been proposed as an important source of human Toxoplasma gondii infection. To ascertain the contribution of meat consumption to the risk of human infection, estimates of the prevalence of infection in meat-producing animals are required. A cross-sectional study was conducted to assess T. gondii infection in pigs raised in England, to identify risk factors for infection, and to compare performance of two serological tests: modified agglutination test (MAT) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Blood samples from 2071 slaughter pigs originating from 131 farms were collected and 75 (3.6%) were found to be positive by MAT. Positive pigs originated from 24 farms. A subset of samples (n = 492) were tested using ELISA, and a significant disagreement (p < 0.001) was found between the two tests. An empirical Bayes approach was used to estimate the farm-level prevalence and the probability of each individual farm having at least one positive animal, considering the uncertainty arising from the sampling strategy and the imperfect test performance. The adjusted farm-level prevalence was 11.5% (95% credible interval of positive farms 8.4-16.0%). Two different criteria were used for classifying farms as infected: (1) >/=50% probability of having at least one infected pig (n = 5, 6.8%) and (2) >/=10% probability (n = 15, 20.5%). Data on putative risk factors were obtained for 73 farms. Using a 10% cutoff, the relative risk (RR) of infection was higher in farms where cats have direct access to pigs' food (RR = 2.6; p = 0.04), pigs have outdoor access (RR = 3.0; p = 0.04), and farms keeping

Crotta M, Limon G, Blake D P, Guitian J (2017)

Knowledge gaps in host-parasite interaction preclude accurate assessment of meat-borne exposure to Toxoplasma gondii

International Journal of Food Microbiology 261, 95-101


Toxoplasma gondii is recognized as a widely prevalent zoonotic parasite worldwide. Although several studies clearly identified meat products as an important source of T. gondii infections in humans, quantitative understanding of the risk posed to humans through the food chain is surprisingly scant. While probabilistic risk assessments for pathogens such as Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes or Escherichia coli have been well established, attempts to quantify the probability of human exposure to T. gondii through consumption of food products of animal origin are at early stages. The biological complexity of the life cycle of T. gondii and limited understanding of several fundamental aspects of the host/parasite interaction, require the adoption of numerous critical assumptions and significant simplifications. In this study, we present a hypothetical quantitative model for the assessment of human exposure to T. gondii through meat products. The model has been conceptualized to capture the dynamics leading to the presence of parasite in meat and, for illustrative purposes, used to estimate the probability of at least one viable cyst occurring in 100g of fresh pork meat in England. Available data, including the results of a serological survey in pigs raised in England were used as a starting point to implement a probabilistic model and assess the fate of the parasite along the food chain. Uncertainty distributions were included to describe and account for the lack of knowledge where necessary. To quantify the impact of the key model inputs, sensitivity and scenario analyses were performed. The overall probability of 100g of a hypothetical edible tissue containing at least 1 cyst was 5.54%. Sensitivity analysis indicated that the variables exerting the greater effect on the output mean were the number of cysts and number of bradyzoites per cyst. Under the best and the worst scenarios, the probability of a single portion of fresh pork meat containing at least 1 viable cyst resulted 1.14% and 9.97% indicating that the uncertainty and lack of data surrounding key input parameters of the model preclude accurate estimation of T. gondii exposure through consumption of meat products. The hypothetical model conceptualized here is coherent with current knowledge of the biology of the parasite. Simulation outputs clearly identify the key gaps in our knowledge of the host-parasite interaction that, when filled, will support quantitative assessments and much needed accurate estimates of the risk of human exposure.

Gonçalves-Carneiro D, McKeating J A, Bailey D (2017)

The measles virus receptor SLAMF1 can mediate particle endocytosis

Journal of Virology 91 (7),


The signaling lymphocyte activation molecule F1 (SLAMF1) is both a microbial sensor and entry receptor for measles virus (MeV). Herein, we describe a new role for SLAMF1 to mediate MeV endocytosis that is in contrast with the alternative, and generally accepted, model that MeV genome enters cells only after fusion at the cell surface. We demonstrated that MeV engagement of SLAMF1 induces dramatic but transient morphological changes, most prominently in the formation of membrane blebs, which were shown to colocalize with incoming viral particles, and rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton in infected cells. MeV infection was dependent on these dynamic cytoskeletal changes as well as fluid uptake through a macropinocytosis-like pathway as chemical inhibition of these processes inhibited entry. Moreover, we identified a role for the RhoA-ROCK-myosin II signaling axis in this MeV internalization process, highlighting a novel role for this recently characterized pathway in virus entry. Our study shows that MeV can hijack a microbial sensor normally involved in bacterial phagocytosis to drive endocytosis using a complex pathway that shares features with canonical viral macropinocytosis, phagocytosis, and mechanotransduction. This uptake pathway is specific to SLAMF1-positive cells and occurs within 60 min of viral attachment. Measles virus remains a significant cause of mortality in human populations, and this research sheds new light on the very first steps of infection of this important pathogen.

Measles is a significant disease in humans and is estimated to have killed over 200 million people since records began. According to current World Health Organization statistics, it still kills over 100,000 people a year, mostly children in the developing world. The causative agent, measles virus, is a small enveloped RNA virus that infects a broad range of cells during infection. In particular, immune cells are infected via interactions between glycoproteins found on the surface of the virus and SLAMF1, the immune cell receptor. In this study, we have investigated the steps governing entry of measles virus into SLAMF1-positive cells and identified endocytic uptake of viral particles. This research will impact our understanding of morbillivirus-related immunosuppression as well as the application of measles virus as an oncolytic therapeutic.


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