The African swine fever vaccinology group focuses on applied and fundamental research into the large DNA virus that causes African swine fever, a lethal haemorrhagic disease in pigs and wild boar. Control of African swine fever is limited to slaughter and quarantine of infected animals due to the lack of a vaccine.
The aim of the African swine fever vaccinology group is to guide the design of vaccines against African swine fever (ASF) through a combination of functional genomics, identifying correlates of protection and gaining a deeper understanding of host-pathogen interactions. We aim to identify correlates of protection by analysing the cellular and adaptive immune response of pigs protected from virulent African swine fever virus (ASFV) by experimental vaccines. Characterisation of how ASFV manipulates host pathways will further our understanding of immune evasion mechanisms and identify additional virulence factors for targeted deletion from candidate live attenuated vaccines.
Identification of protective antigens. We are using different approaches to identify potentially protective proteins out of the more than 150 encoded by the viral genome. Selected proteins will be incorporated into vaccine vectors for immunisation and challenge experiments in pigs (in collaboration with the African swine fever virus group).
The UK exported £350m worth of pigs and pork products in 2014 (Source: National Pig Association), of which at least approximately £81.5m was to countries outside of the EU (Source: PBEX). The English pig industry was calculated to contribute £304.9m net to the UK economy (Source: The real value of English red meat, Matrix 2012). Therefore ASF has the potential to cause a great deal of economic damage to the UK.
ASFV is endemic in much of sub-Saharan Africa where it causes significant loss of stock in commercial and backyard farms. The ability to effectively control ASFV would have great economic and social value in the developing world, both at a local level where pig farming represents an opportunity for the rural poor of a long term income stream as well as a source of cash in an emergency, and at the national level by removing barriers to trade.