Researchers at Pirbright have developed a pig respiratory coronavirus (PRCV) model which will help to understand how coronaviruses cause disease and how the immune system responds to them.
Human coronaviruses such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are spread from animals to people, these are known as zoonotic viruses. Research to understand coronaviruses and how to control and prevent their spread has the potential to benefit human and animal health.
Pigs are good for modelling human disease because of the similarity in size and how their immune systems work. They are also naturally infected with PRCV and have varying symptoms and severity, just like people with COVID-19.
It is hoped that this will also shed light on how coronaviruses, like SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19, infect humans and the measures that can be put in place to reduce the spread and severity of disease.
Published in Frontiers in Immunology, the research is designed to understand what factors result in mild or severe disease in pigs, to then inform the development of new control strategies for emerging livestock and human coronaviruses.
Currently, relatively little is known about why the disease severity varies and how the immune system fights these coronaviruses.
Four strains of PRCV were investigated in the study which revealed that those viruses that replicated in the lungs caused more severe disease. Scientists also discovered that all virus strains multiplied in the upper respiratory tract and in the nose, as seen with SARS-CoV-2.
Those strains that caused severe disease were also able to multiply in organ cultures, findings that will help us understand how these viruses enter cells, replicate and how some immune cells respond to virus infection.
Dr Elma Tchilian, Head of the Mucosal Immunology group at Pirbright said: “This research is an important step to understanding coronaviruses in their natural hosts. By exploring disease in pigs, and the mechanisms of infection we will gain insights into pig health which can also be applied to humans with COVID-19. This will help to improve our knowledge of COVID-19 and the most effective controls that can be put into place to slow the spread of disease.”
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Notes to Editors
The paper ‘Porcine Respiratory Coronavirus as a Model for Acute Respiratory Coronavirus Disease’ will be available in Frontiers in Immunology with the DOI/link https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2022.867707
This research was funded by UK Research and Innovation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Grants.
About The Pirbright Institute
The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience.
The Institute is an independent company, limited by guarantee and a registered charity, governed by a Board of non-executive Trustee Directors.
With an annual income of £37 million from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £43.7 million strategic investment from BBSRC UKRI during 2021-2022, the Institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.
For more information about The Pirbright Institute see: www.pirbright.ac.uk
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £451 million in world-class bioscience in 2019-20. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
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