Prospects for development of African swine fever virus vaccines

African swine fever virus is a large DNA virus which can cause an acute haemorrhagic fever in pigs resulting in high mortality. No vaccine is available, limiting options for control. The virus encodes up to 165 genes and virus particles are multi-layered and contain more than 50 proteins. Pigs immunised with natural low virulence isolates or attenuated viruses produced by passage in tissue culture and by targeted gene deletions can be protected against challenge with virulent viruses. CD8+ cells are required for protection induced by attenuated strain OURT88/3. Passive transfer of antibodies from immune to naïve pigs can also induce protection. Knowledge of the genome sequences of attenuated and virulent strains and targeted gene deletions from virulent strains have identified a number of virus genes involved in virulence and immune evasion. This information can be used to produce rationally attenuated vaccine strains. Virus antigens that are targets for neutralising antibodies have been identified and immunisation with these recombinant proteins has been shown to induce partial protection. However knowledge of antigens which encode the dominant protective epitopes recognised by CD8+ T cells is lacking.

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