Cellular immunity in ASFV responses

African swine fever virus (ASFV) infection usually results in an acute haemorrhagic disease with a mortality rate approaching 100% in domestic pigs. However, pigs can survive infection with less-virulent isolates of ASFV and may become chronically infected. Surviving animals are resistant to challenge with homologous or, in some cases, closely related isolates of the virus indicating that pigs can develop protective immunity against ASFV. During asymptomatic, non-virulent ASFV infections natural killer cell activity increases in pigs, suggesting this cell type plays a role in ASFV immunity. Furthermore, depletion of CD8+ lymphocytes from ASFV immune pigs demolishes protective immunity against related virulent viruses. This suggests that ASFV specific antibody alone is not sufficient for protection against ASFV infection and that there is an important role for the CD8+ lymphocyte subset in ASFV protective immunity. These results were supported by DNA immunization studies, demonstrating a correlation between the protection afforded against lethal challenge and the detection of a large number of vaccine-induced antigen-specific CD8+ T-cells. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from ASF immune pigs protected from clinical disease show higher proportions of ASFV specific CD4+CD8high+ double positive cytotoxic T cells than PBMCs from ASF immune but clinically diseased pig. The frequency of ASFV specific IFN? producing T cells induced by immunization correlates to the degree of protection from ASFV challenge, and this may prove to be a useful indicator of any potential cross-protection against heterologous ASFV isolates.

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