The Pirbright Institute publication directory contains details of selected publications written by our researchers.

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Morgan S B, Holzer B, Hemmink J D, Salguero F J, Schwartz J C, Agatic G, Cameroni E, Guarino B, Porter E, Rijal P, Townsend A, Charleston B, Corti D, Tchilian E (2018)

Therapeutic administration of broadly neutralizing FI6 antibody reveals lack of interaction between human IgG1 and pig Fc receptors

Frontiers in Immunology 9, 865


Influenza virus infection is a significant global health threat. Because of the lack of cross-protective universal vaccines, short time window during which antivirals are effective and drug resistance, new therapeutic anti-influenza strategies are required. Broadly, cross-protective antibodies that target conserved sites in the hemagglutinin (HA) stem region have been proposed as therapeutic agents. FI6 is the first proven such monoclonal antibody to bind to H1-H16 and is protective in mice and ferrets. Multiple studies have shown that Fc-dependent mechanisms are essential for FI6 in vivo efficacy. Here, we show that therapeutic administration of FI6 either intravenously or by aerosol to pigs did not reduce viral load in nasal swabs or broncho-alveolar lavage, but aerosol delivery of FI6 reduced gross pathology significantly. We demonstrate that pig Fc receptors do not bind human IgG1 and that FI6 did not mediate antibody-dependent cytotoxicity (ADCC) with pig PBMC, confirming that ADCC is an important mechanism of protection by anti-stem antibodies in vivo. Enhanced respiratory disease, which has been associated with pigs with cross-reactive non-neutralizing anti-HA antibodies, did not occur after FI6 administration. Our results also show that in vitro neutralizing antibody responses are not a robust correlate of protection for the control of influenza infection and pathology in a natural host model.

Calvo-Pinilla E, Gubbins S, Mertens P, Ortego J, Castillo-Olivares J (2018)

The immunogenicity of recombinant vaccines based on Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) viruses expressing African horse sickness virus VP2 antigens depends on the levels of expressed VP2 protein delivered to the host

Antiviral Research 154, 132-139


African horse sickness (AHS) is a lethal equine disease transmitted by Culicoides biting midges and caused by African horse sickness virus (AHSV). AHS is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, but devastating outbreaks have been recorded periodically outside this region. The perceived risk of an AHS outbreak occurring in Europe has increased following the frequent epidemics caused in ruminants by bluetongue virus, closely related to AHSV. Attenuated vaccines for AHS are considered unsuitable for use in non-endemic countries due bio-safety concerns. Further, attenuated and inactivated vaccines are not compatible with DIVA (differentiate infected from vaccinated animals) strategies. All these factors stimulated the development of novel AHS vaccines that are safer, more efficacious and DIVA compatible. We showed previously that recombinant modified Vaccinia Ankara virus (MVA) vaccines encoding the outer capsid protein of AHSV (AHSV-VP2) induced virus neutralising antibodies (VNAb) and protection against AHSV in a mouse model and also in the horse. Passive immunisation studies demonstrated that immunity induced by MVA-VP2 was associated with pre-challenge VNAb titres in the vaccinates. Analyses of the inoculum of these MVA-VP2 experimental vaccines showed that they contained pre-formed AHSV-VP2. We continued studying the influence of pre-formed AHSV-VP2, present in the inoculum of MVA-VP2 vaccines, in the immunogenicity of MVA-VP2 vaccines. Thus, we compared correlates of immunity in challenged mice that were previously vaccinated with: a) MVA-VP2 (live); b) MVA-VP2 (live and sucrose gradient purified); c) MVA-VP2 (UV light inactivated); d) MVA-VP2 (UV light inactivated and diluted); e) MVA-VP2 (heat inactivated); f) MVA-VP2 (UV inactivated) + MVA-VP2 (purified); g) MVA-VP2 (heat inactivated) + MVA-VP2 (purified); and h) wild type-MVA (no insert). The results of these experiments showed that protection was maximal using MVA-VP2 (live) vaccine and that the protection conferred by all other vaccines correlated strongly with the levels of pre-formed AHSV-VP2 in the vaccine inoculum.

Tan L, Zhang Y, Qiao C, Yuan Y, Sun Y, Qiu X, Meng C, Song C, Liao Y, Munir M, Nair V, Ding Z, Liu X, Ding C (2018)

NDV entry into dendritic cells through macropinocytosis and suppression of T lymphocyte proliferation

Virology 518, 126-135


Newcastle disease virus (NDV) causes major economic losses in the poultry industry. Previous studies have shown that NDV utilizes different pathways to infect various cells, including dendritic cells (DCs). Here, we demonstrate that NDV gains entry into DCs mainly via macropinocytosis and clathrin-mediated endocytosis. The detection of cytokines interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-12 (IL-12), interleukin-4 (IL-4) and interleukin-10 (IL-10) indicates that NDV significantly induces Th1 responses and lowers Th2 responses. Furthermore, NDV entry into DCs resulted in the upregulation of TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and cleaved caspase-3 proteins, which in turn activated the extrinsic apoptosis pathway and induced DCs apoptosis. Transwell® co-culture demonstrated that direct contact between live NDV-stimulated DCs and T cells, rather than heated-inactivated NDV, inhibited CD4+ T cell proliferation. Taken together, these findings provide new insights into the mechanism underlying NDV infections, particularly in relation to antigen presentation cells and suppression of T cell proliferation.

Portugal R, Leitão A, Martins C (2018)

Modulation of type I interferon signaling by African swine fever virus (ASFV) of different virulence L60 and NHV in macrophage host cells

Veterinary Microbiology 216, 132-141


ASFV causes an important disease of domestic swine and wild boar. Currently no vaccine is available, highlighting the necessity to understand ASFV modulation of innate immune responses in natural host cells. With this aim, macrophage cultures enriched in SWC9 and CD163 differentiation markers were infected in parallel with high virulent ASFV/L60 and low virulent ASFV/NHV, the latter lacking MGF 360 and 505/530 genes associated with type I interferon (IFN I) control. IFN I production and signaling were studied after completion of the viral cycles. None of the viruses increased IFN I production in host cells, and accordingly, didn't cause activation of the central mediator of the pathway IRF3. However, upon stimulation by poly:IC treatment during infections, L60 and NHV similarly inhibited IFN I production. This didn't seem to depend on IRF3 modulation since its activation levels were not significantly decreased in L60 infection and were even increased in NHV's, in comparison to stimulated mock infections. The infections didn't evidently activate JAK-STAT pathway mediators STAT1 and STAT2, but did increase expression of interferon stimulated genes (ISGs), to higher levels in NHV than L60 infection. Interestingly, in presence of IFN-alpha, L60 but not NHV was able to decrease significantly the expression of some of the ISGs tested. Overall, both L60 and NHV were able to inhibit IFN I production in macrophages, through a mechanism not dependent on IRF3 modulation. The high virulent isolate showed however a more effective control of the downstream ISGs expression pathway.

Oliveira L B, Haga I R, Villa L L (2018)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) 16 E6 oncoprotein targets the Toll-like receptor pathway

Journal of General Virology early view,


Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women worldwide and is etiologically linked to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Viral early proteins E6 and E7 manipulate cellular functions to promote the virus life cycle and are essential to the cellular transformation process. The innate immune system plays a pivotal role in the natural history of HPV infection. Among the various proteins that mediate the innate immune response, Toll-like receptors (TLRs) recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) and initiate the immune response. The objective of this study was to identify HPV E6 protein interaction partners in the TLR signalling pathway that may play a role in the immune response against HPV. Six TLR pathway proteins were shown to interact with HPV16 E6: myeloid differentiation primary response protein (MyD88), TIR domain-containing adapter molecule 1 (TRIF), interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase-like (IRAK) 2, TNF receptor-associated factor (TRAF) 6, I-κB kinase beta (IKKβ) and I-κB kinase epsilon (IKKε). The interaction site of IKKε with E6 is located in the region containing the enzyme catalytic site, suggesting an influence of E6 on the activation of IKKε target proteins. HPV16 E6 potentiated the activation of NF-κB by various TLR pathway members. These results suggest that HPV16 has the ability to interfere with components of the immune response, contributing to HPV carcinogenesis.

Edgington M P, Alphey L S (2018)

Population dynamics of engineered underdominance and killer-rescue gene drives in the control of disease vectors

PLOS Computational Biology 14 (3), e1006059


Vector-borne diseases represent a severe burden to both human and animal health worldwide. The methods currently being used to control a range of these diseases do not appear sufficient to address the issues at hand. As such, alternate methods for the control of vector-borne diseases are currently being investigated. Among the promising techniques currently being considered are a range of genetic control methods known as gene drive systems. These allow desirable genetic traits (such as a much reduced capacity for vectors to transmit viruses) to be spread through a target population; taking advantage of natural mate seeking behaviour to locate vector sub-populations that can be extremely difficult for humans to locate and reach. Here we use mathematical models (parameterised to consider mosquito populations) to demonstrate the robustness of the engineered underdominance and killer-rescue classes of gene drive to different ecological factors including birth and death rates; the number and quality of breeding sites (i.e. carrying capacity); and the strength of density-dependent competition during the larval development phase. We then go on to explore the range of potential outcomes that may result from the migration of individuals between two neighbouring populations.

Alonso C, Borca M, Dixon L, Revilla Y, Rodriguez F, Escribano J M, Consortium I R (2018)

ICTV virus taxonomy profile: Asfarviridae

Journal of General Virology early view,


The family Asfarviridae includes the single species African swine fever virus, isolates of which have linear dsDNA genomes of 170-194 kbp. Virions have an internal core, an internal lipid membrane, an icosahedral capsid and an outer lipid envelope. Infection of domestic pigs and wild boar results in an acute haemorrhagic fever with transmission by contact or ingestion, or by ticks of the genus Ornithodoros. Indigenous pigs act as reservoirs in Africa, where infection is endemic, and from where introductions occur periodically to Europe. This is a summary of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) Report on the taxonomy of the Asfarviridae.

Abeyratne S A E, Amarasekera S S C, Ranaweera L T, Salpadoru T B, Thilakarathne S M N K, Knowles N J, Wadsworth J, Puvanendiran S, Kothalawala H, Jayathilake B K, Wijithasiri H A, Chandrasena M M P S K, Sooriyapathirana S D S S (2018)

The phylogenetic analysis of VP1 genomic region in foot-and-mouth disease virus serotype O isolates in Sri Lanka reveals the existence of 'Srl-97', a newly named endemic lineage

PLOS ONE 13 (3), e0194077


Foot and mouth disease (FMD) has devastated the cattle industry in Sri Lanka many times in the past. Despite its seriousness, limited attempts have been made to understand the disease to ameliorate its effects-current recommendation for vaccines being based solely on immunological assessments rather than on molecular identification. The general belief is that the cattle population in Sri Lanka acquired the FMD virus (FMDV) strains via introductions from India. However, there could be endemic FMDV lineages circulating in Sri Lanka. To infer the phylogenetic relationships of the FMDV strains in the island, we sequenced the VP1 genomic region of the virus isolates collected during the 2014 outbreak together with a few reported cases in 2012 and 1997 and compared them to VP1 sequences from South Asia. The FMDV strains collected in the 2014 outbreak belonged to the lineage, Ind-2001d, of the topotype, ME-SA. The strains collected in 2012 and 1997 belonged to another lineage called 'unnamed' by the World Reference Laboratory for Foot and Mouth Disease (WRLFMD). Based on the present analysis, we designate the lineage 'unnamed' as Srl-97 which we found endemic to Sri Lanka. The evolutionary rates of Srl-97 and Ind-2001d in Sri Lanka were estimated to be 0.0004 and 0.0046 substitutions/site/year, respectively, suggesting that Srl-97 evolves slowly.

Chibssa T R, Grabherr R, Loitsch A, Settypalli T B K, Tuppurainen E, Nwankpa N, Tounkara K, Madani H, Omani A, Diop M, Cattoli G, Diallo A, Lamien C E (2018)

A gel-based PCR method to differentiate sheeppox virus field isolates from vaccine strains

Virology Journal 15 (1), 59


Sheeppox (SPP) and goatpox (GTP) caused by sheeppox virus (SPPV) and goatpox virus (GTPV), respectively of the genus Capripoxvirus in the family Poxviridae, are severely afflicting small ruminants' production systems in Africa and Asia. In endemic areas, SPP and GTP are controlled using vaccination with live attenuated vaccines derived from SPPV, GTPV or Lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV). Sometimes outbreaks occur following vaccination. In order to successfully control the spread of the virus, it is essential to identify whether the animals were infected by the field strain and the vaccine did not provide sufficient protection. Alternatively, in some cases the vaccine strain may cause adverse reactions in vaccinated animals or in rare occasions, re-gain virulence. Thus, diagnostic tools for differentiation of virulent strains from attenuated vaccine strains of the virus are needed. The aim of this study was to identify an appropriate diagnostic target region in the capripoxvirus genome by comparing the genomic sequences of SPPV field isolates with those of the most widely used SPP vaccine strains. RESULTS: A unique 84 base pair nucleotide deletion located between the DNA ligase gene and the VARV B22R homologue gene was found only in SPPV vaccines derived from the Romanian and Yugoslavian RM/65 strains and absent in SPPV field isolates originated from various geographical locations of Asia and Africa. In addition, we developed and evaluated a conventional PCR assay, exploiting the targeted intergenic region to differentiate SPPV vaccine virus from field isolates. The assay produced an amplicon size of 218 bp for the vaccine strains, while the SPPV field isolates resulted in a 302 bp PCR fragment. The assay showed good sensitivity and specificity, and the results were in full agreement with the sequencing data of the PCR amplicons. CONCLUSION: The developed assay is an improvement of currently existing diagnostic tools and, when combined with a capripox virus species-specific assay, will enhance SPP and GTP diagnosis and surveillance and facilitate epidemiological investigations in countries using live attenuated SPP vaccines. In addition, for laboratories with limited resources, the assay provides a simple and cost-effective alternative for sequencing.

Xu J, Li X, Jiang B, Feng X, Wu J, Cai Y, Zhang X, Huang X, Sealy J E, Iqbal M, Li Y (2018)

Antiviral immunotoxin against bovine herpesvirus-1: targeted inhibition of viral replication and apoptosis of infected cell

Frontiers in Microbiology 9, 653


Bovine herpesvirus 1 (BoHV-1) is a highly contagious viral pathogen which causes infectious bovine rhinotracheitis in cattle worldwide. Currently, there is no antiviral prophylactic treatment available capable of mitigating the disease impact and facilitating recovery from latent infection. In this study, we have engineered a novel recombinant anti-BoHV-1 immunotoxin construct termed "BoScFv-PE38" that consists of a single-chain monoclonal antibody fragment (scFv) fused with an active domain of Pseudomonas exotoxin A as a toxic effector (PE38). The recombinant BoScFv-PE38 immunotoxin expressed in a prokaryotic expression system has specific binding affinity for BoHV-1 glycoprotein D (gD) with a dissociation constant (Kd) of 12.81 nM and for BoHV-1 virus particles with a Kd value of 97.63 nM. We demonstrate that the recombinant BoScFv-PE38 is internalized into MDBK cell compartments that inhibit BoHV-1 replication with a half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) of 4.95±0.33 nM and a selective index (SI) of 456±31. Furthermore, the BoScFv-PE38 exerted a cytotoxic effect through the induction of ATP and ammonia, leading to apoptosis of BoHV-1-infected cells and the inhibition of BoHV-1 replication in MDBK cells. Collectively, we show that BoScFv-PE38 can potentially be employed as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of BoHV-1 infection.


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