Respiratory viruses are amongst the greatest threats to global health. There is an urgent need to better understand mechanisms of protective immunity to respiratory infections, particularly SARS-CoV-2, and to develop better animal models to test efficacy of novel vaccines and therapies. Pigs are anatomically, physiologically and immunologically more similar to humans than small laboratory animals. We have established a robust pig influenza challenge model to study transmission, immunity to influenza and test vaccines and the efficacy of and monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy.
The goal of our research is to develop better prevention strategies for respiratory pathogens in animals and humans. Our main objectives are:
- To determine the importance of local immunity, including lung tissue resident memory T and B cells, in respiratory infections and develop improved strategies to induce these protective mechanisms.
- To test how best to deliver prophylactic and therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and to uncover mechanisms underlying their ability to protect against disease.
- To understand transmission dynamics of swine influenza and identify means of preventing transmission.
We have developed many tools to study immunity in pigs, including cell transfer, tetramers, scintigraphy and means of enumerating tissue resident memory cells. We have shown that aerosol delivery of a candidate vaccine is highly efficient in inducing heterosubtypic protection against swine influenza and that vaccine induced protection differs in ferrets and pigs. We have isolated the first pig influenza monoclonal antibodies, showing that they recognise identical parts of the virus to human antibodies. These tools and experience make pigs an invaluable model to study immunity against respiratory infections for improvement of animal and human health.
The pig is becoming increasingly recognised as a reliable and useful model for selection of vaccines and therapeutics for human influenza and other pathogens. Understanding how best to induce and maintain lung tissue resident memory cells will enable us to make more efficient vaccines. Determining the viral and host factors related to transmission will enable better control measures to prevent disease to be developed and applied. Establishing the pig as a robust model to test mAbs and vaccines allows us to scale up novel control strategies from small to large animals prior to human use.