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

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Franzoni G, Graham S P, Dei Giudici S, Oggiano A (2019)

Porcine dendritic cells and viruses: an update

Viruses 11 (5), 445
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Several viral infections of swine are responsible for major economic losses and represent a threat to the swine industry worldwide. New tools are needed to prevent and control endemic, emerging, and re-emerging viral diseases. Dendritic cells (DC) play a central role in linking the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system, so knowledge regarding their interaction with pathogens is necessary to understand the mechanisms underlying diseases pathogenesis and protection. In the first part of this review, we provide an update on the heterogeneous cell subsets that comprise the porcine DC family. In the second part of this review, we provide an overview of how three viruses, affecting pork production at a global level, African swine fever virus (ASFV), classical swine fever virus (CSFV), and porcine circovirus 2 (PCV2), modulate DC function.

Edgington M P, Alphey L S (2019)

Modeling the mutation and reversal of engineered underdominance gene drives

Journal of Theoretical Biology 479, 14-21


A range of gene drive systems have been proposed that are predicted to increase their frequency and that of associated desirable genetic material even if they confer a fitness cost on individuals carrying them. Engineered underdominance (UD) is such a system and, in one version, is based on the introduction of two independently segregating transgenic constructs each carrying a lethal gene, a suppressor for the lethal at the other locus and a desirable genetic “cargo”. Under this system individuals carrying at least one copy of each construct (or no copies of either) are viable whilst those that possess just one of the transgenic constructs are non-viable. Previous theoretical work has explored various properties of these systems, concluding that they should persist indefinitely in absence of resistance or mutation. Here we study a population genetics model of UD gene drive that relaxes past assumptions by allowing for loss-of-function mutations in each introduced gene. We demonstrate that mutations are likely to cause UD systems to break down, eventually resulting in the elimination of introduced transgenes. We then go on to investigate the potential of releasing “free suppressor” carrying individuals as a new method for reversing UD gene drives and compare this to the release of wild-types; the only previously proposed reversal strategy for UD. This reveals that while free suppressor carrying individuals may represent an inexpensive reversal strategy due to extremely small release requirements, they are not able to return a fully wild-type population as rapidly as the release of wild-types.

Nyaguthii D M, Armson B, Kitala P M, Sanz-Bernardo B, Di Nardo A, Lyons N A (2019)

Knowledge and risk factors for foot-and-mouth disease among small-scale dairy farmers in an endemic setting

Veterinary Research 50, 33


Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral infection of cloven-hoofed animals. In Kenya, the disease is endemic with outbreaks typically occurring throughout the year. A cross-sectional study was undertaken in Nakuru County to investigate farmer knowledge and risk factors for clinical disease. Semi-structured interviews were conducted on 220 smallholder farmers, selected using random spatial sampling. The majority of respondents (207/220 [94.1%]) knew of FMD and 166/207 (80.2%) of them could correctly identify the disease based on their knowledge of the clinical signs. Forty-five out of 220 farmers (20.4%) vaccinated their livestock against FMD in the previous 6 months, although of those who knew of FMD only 96/207 (46.4%) perceived it as a preventive measure undertaken to reduce the risk of disease in their farm. FMD had occurred in 5.9% of the surveyed farms within the previous 6 months (from May to November 2016). Using multivariate analysis, the use of a shared bull (OR = 9.7; p = 0.014) and the number of sheep owned (for each additional sheep owned OR = 1.1; p = 0.066) were associated with an increased likelihood of a farm experiencing a case of FMD in the previous 6 months, although the evidence for the latter was weak. This study reports risk factors associated with clinical FMD at the farm level in a densely populated smallholder farming area of Kenya. These results can be used to inform the development of risk-based strategic plans for FMD control and as a baseline for evaluating interventions and control strategies.

Zhou C, Tan L, Sun Y, Qiu X, Liao Y, Song C, Liu W, Nair V, Ding C (2019)

Exosomes carry microRNAs into neighboring cells to promote diffusive infection of Newcastle disease virus

Viruses 11 (6), 527
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Newcastle disease virus (NDV), an avian paramyxovirus, was shown to prefer to replicate in tumor cells instead of normal cells; however, this mechanism has not been fully elucidated. Exosomes play a crucial role in intercellular communication due to the bioactive substances they carry. Several studies have shown that exosomes are involved in virus infections. However, the effect that exosomes have on NDV-infected tumor cells is not known. In this study, we focus on the role of exosomes secreted by NDV-infected HeLa cells in promoting NDV replication. Three miRNA candidates (miR-1273f, miR-1184, and miR-198) embraced by exosomes were associated with enhancing NDV-induced cytopathic effects on HeLa cells. Furthermore, luciferase assays, RT-qPCR, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) all demonstrated that these miRNAs could suppress interferon (IFN)-beta gene expression. Enhanced NDV replication in HeLa cells was identified by Western blot and plaque assays. Based on these results, we speculate that NDV employed exosomes entry into neighboring cells, which carry miRNAs, resulting in inhibition of the IFN pathway and promotion of viral infection. To our knowledge, this is the first report on the involvement of NDV-employed exosomes in tumor cells, and as such, it provides new insights into the development of anti-tumor therapies.

Kotey E, Lukosaityte D, Quaye O, Ampofo W, Awandare G, Iqbal M (2019)

Current and novel approaches in influenza management

Vaccines (Basel) 7 (2), 53
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Influenza is a disease that poses a significant health burden worldwide. Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza virus infections. However, conventional vaccines are only effective for a short period of time due to the propensity of influenza viruses to undergo antigenic drift and antigenic shift. The efficacy of these vaccines is uncertain from year-to-year due to potential mismatch between the circulating viruses and vaccine strains, and mutations arising due to egg adaptation. Subsequently, the inability to store these vaccines long-term and vaccine shortages are challenges that need to be overcome. Conventional vaccines also have variable efficacies for certain populations, including the young, old, and immunocompromised. This warrants for diverse efficacious vaccine developmental approaches, involving both active and passive immunization. As opposed to active immunization platforms (requiring the use of whole or portions of pathogens as vaccines), the rapidly developing passive immunization involves administration of either pathogen-specific or broadly acting antibodies against a kind or class of pathogens as a treatment to corresponding acute infection. Several antibodies with broadly acting capacities have been discovered that may serve as means to suppress influenza viral infection and allow the process of natural immunity to engage opsonized pathogens whilst boosting immune system by antibody-dependent mechanisms that bridge the innate and adaptive arms. By that; passive immunotherapeutics approach assumes a robust tool that could aid control of influenza viruses. In this review, we comment on some improvements in influenza management and promising vaccine development platforms with an emphasis on the protective capacity of passive immunotherapeutics especially when coupled with the use of antivirals in the management of influenza infection.

Walker P J, Siddell S G, Lefkowitz E J, Mushegian A R, Dempsey D M, Dutilh B E, Harrach B, Harrison R L, Hendrickson R C, Junglen S, Knowles N J, Kropinski A M, Krupovic M, Kuhn J H, Nibert M, Rubino L, Sabanadzovic S, Simmonds P, Varsani A, Zerbini F M, Davison A J (2019)

Changes to virus taxonomy and the International Code of Virus Classification and Nomenclature ratified by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (2019)

Archives of Virology 164 (9), 2417-2429


This article reports the changes to virus taxonomy approved and ratified by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) in February 2019. Of note, in addition to seven new virus families, the ICTV has approved, by an absolute majority, the creation of the realm Riboviria, a likely monophyletic group encompassing all viruses with positive-strand, negative-strand and double-strand genomic RNA that use cognate RNA-directed RNA polymerases for replication.

Fay P C, Attoui H, Batten C, Mohd Jaafar F, Lomonossoff G P, Daly J M, Mertens P P C (2019)

Bluetongue virus outer-capsid protein VP2 expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana raises neutralising antibodies and a protective immune response in IFNAR -/- mice

Vaccine: X 2, 100026


Bluetongue is a severe, economically important disease of ruminants that is widely distributed in tropical and temperate regions around the world. It is associated with major production losses, restrictions of animal movements and trade, as well as costs associated with developing and implementing effective surveillance and control measures. Mammalian hosts infected with bluetongue virus (BTV) generate a protective neutralising antibody response targeting the major BTV outer-capsid protein and serotype–specific antigen, VP2. BTV VP2 proteins that have been expressed in plants are soluble, with a native conformation displaying neutralising epitopes and can assemble with other BTV structural proteins to form virus-like particles (VLP). His tagged VP2 proteins of BTV serotypes 4 and 8 were transiently expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana then purified by immobilised metal affinity chromatography (IMAC). Antisera from IFNAR -/- mice prime / boost vaccinated with the purified proteins, were shown to contain VP2-specific antibodies by Indirect ELISA (I-ELISA), western blotting and serum neutralisation tests (SNT). Vaccinated mice, subsequently challenged with either the homologous or heterologous BTV serotype, developed viraemia by day 3 post-infection. However, no clinical signs were observed in mice challenged with the homologous serotype (either prime-boost or single-shot vaccinated), all of which survived for the duration of the study. In contrast, all of the vaccinated mice challenged with a heterologous serotype, died, showing no evidence of cross-protection or suppression of viraemia, as detected by real-time RT–qPCR d or virus isolation. The induction of protective, serotype-specific neutralising antibodies in IFNAR -/- mice, indicates potential for the use of plant-expressed BTV VP2s as subunit vaccine components, or as a basis for serotype-specific serological assays.

Peacock T P, James J, Sealy J E, Iqbal M (2019)

A global perspective on H9N2 avian influenza virus

Viruses 11 (7), 620
Publisher’s version:


H9N2 avian influenza viruses have become globally widespread in poultry over the last two decades and represent a genuine threat both to the global poultry industry but also humans through their high rates of zoonotic infection and pandemic potential. H9N2 viruses are generally hyperendemic in affected countries and have been found in poultry in many new regions in recent years. In this review, we examine the current global spread of H9N2 avian influenza viruses as well as their host range, tropism, transmission routes and the risk posed by these viruses to human health.

Fereidouni S, Freimanis G L, Orynbayev M, Ribeca P, Flannery J, King D P, Zuther S, Beer M, Hoper D, Kydyrmanov A, Karamendin K, Kock R (2019)

Mass die-off of saiga antelopes, Kazakhstan, 2015

Emerging Infectious Diseases 25 (6), 1169-1176


In 2015, a mass die-off of approximately 200,000 saiga antelopes in central Kazakhstan was caused by hemorrhagic septicemia attributable to the bacterium Pasteurella multocida serotype B. Previous analyses have indicated that environmental triggers associated with weather conditions, specifically air moisture and temperature in the region of the saiga antelope calving during the 10-day period running up to the event, were critical to the proliferation of latent bacteria and were comparable to conditions accompanying historically similar die-offs in the same areas. We investigated whether additional viral or bacterial pathogens could be detected in samples from affected animals using 3 different high-throughput sequencing approaches. We did not identify pathogens associated with commensal bacterial opportunisms in blood, kidney, or lung samples and thus concluded that P. multocida serotype B was the primary cause of the disease.

Graham S P, El Sharif H F, Hussain S, Fruengel R, McLean R K, Hawes P C, Sullivan M V, Reddy S M (2019)

Evaluation of molecularly imprinted polymers as synthetic virus neutralizing antibody mimics

Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 7, 115


Rapid development of antibody-based therapeutics are crucial to the agenda of innovative manufacturing of macromolecular therapies to combat emergent diseases. Although highly specific, antibody therapies are costly to produce. Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) constitute a rapidly-evolving class of antigen-recognition materials that act as synthetic antibodies. We report here on the virus neutralizing capacity of hydrogel-based MIPs. We produced MIPs using porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV-1), as a model mammalian virus. Assays were performed to evaluate the specificity of virus neutralization, the effect of incubation time and MIP concentration. Polyacrylamide and N-hydroxymethylacrylamide based MIPs produced a highly significant reduction in infectious viral titer recovered after treatment, reducing it to the limit of detection of the assay. MIP specificity was tested by comparing their neutralizing effects on PRRSV-1 to the effects on the unrelated bovine viral diarrhea virus-1; no significant cross-reactivity was observed. The MIPs demonstrated effective virus neutralization in just 2.5 min and their effect was concentration dependent. These data support the further evaluation of MIPs as synthetic antibodies as a novel approach to the treatment of viral infection.


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