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

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Teye M V, Sebunya T K, Fana E M, King D P, Seoke L, Knowles N J, Awuni J A, Matlho G, Leteane M, Hyera J M K (2019)

Foot-and-mouth disease in Southern Ghana: occurrence and molecular characterization of circulating viruses

Tropical Animal Health and Production 51 (6), 1667-1677


Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is considered to be endemic in Ghana. However, our knowledge of the local epidemiology of the disease is restricted by a lack of serological information and data for characterized viruses causing field outbreaks. In order to improve our understanding of the prevailing situation, this study was initiated to establish the FMD viruses (FMDV) circulating in the country. During 2016, sera (n = 93) and epithelia/oral swab (n = 20) samples were collected from cattle from four districts in Southern Ghana that experienced FMD outbreaks. Sera were analyzed using the PrioCHECK® FMDV non-structural protein (NSP) ELISA whereas the epithelia/oral swab samples were examined by virus isolation, antigen ELISA, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and sequencing of VP1 followed by phylogenetic analysis. Assay for antibodies against FMDV NSPs provided evidence of exposure to FMDV in 88.2% (82/93) of the sera tested. Serotypes O and A viruses were detected from clinical samples by RT-PCR and sequencing of VP1. Phylogenetic analysis of VP1 coding sequences revealed that the serotype O viruses belonged to the West Africa (WA) topotype and were most closely related to viruses from Niger and Benin, while the serotype A viruses clustered within genotype IV (G-IV) of the Africa topotype and were most closely related to viruses from Nigeria. This study provides useful information on FMDV serotypes and viral lineages that circulate in Ghana and West Africa that may aid in the formulation of effective FMD control strategies.

Bondada M S, Yao Y, Nair V (2019)

Multifunctional miR-155 pathway in avian oncogenic virus-induced neoplastic diseases

Non-coding RNA 5 (1), 24


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that fine-tune the responses of the cell by modulating the cell transcriptome and gene expression. MicroRNA 155 (miR-155) is a conserved multifunctional miRNA involved in multiple roles including the modulation of the immune responses. When deregulated, miR-155 can also contribute to cancer as has been demonstrated in several human malignancies such as diffuse large B cell lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, as well as in Epstein(-)Barr virus (EBV)-induced B cell transformation. Avian oncogenic viruses such as Marek's disease virus (MDV), avian leukosis virus (ALV), and reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV) that account for more than 90% of cancers in avian species, also make use of the miR-155 pathway during oncogenesis. While oncogenic retroviruses, such as ALV, activate miR-155 by insertional activation, acutely transforming retroviruses use transduced oncogenes such as v-rel to upregulate miR-155 expression. MDV on the other hand, encodes a functional miR-155 ortholog mdv1-miR-M4, similar to the miR-155 ortholog kshv-miR-K11 present in Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). We have shown that mdv1-miR-M4 is critical for the induction of MDV-induced lymphomas further demonstrating the oncogenic potential of miR-155 pathway in cancers irrespective of the diverse etiology. In this review, we discuss on our current understanding of miR-155 function in virus-induced lymphomas focusing primarily on avian oncogenic viruses.

Chanda M M, Carpenter S, Prasad G, Sedda L, Henrys P A, Gajendragad M R, Purse B V (2019)

Livestock host composition rather than land use or climate explains spatial patterns in bluetongue disease in South India

Scientific Reports 9 (1), 4229


Culicoides-borne arboviruses of livestock impair animal health, livestock production and livelihoods worldwide. As these arboviruses are multi-host, multi-vector systems, predictions to improve targeting of disease control measures require frameworks that quantify the relative impacts of multiple abiotic and biotic factors on disease patterns. We develop such a framework to predict long term (1992-2009) average patterns in bluetongue (BT), caused by bluetongue virus (BTV), in sheep in southern India, where annual BT outbreaks constrain the livelihoods and production of small-holder farmers. In Bayesian spatial general linear mixed models, host factors outperformed landscape and climate factors as predictors of disease patterns, with more BT outbreaks occurring on average in districts with higher densities of susceptible sheep breeds and buffalo. Since buffalo are resistant to clinical signs of BT, this finding suggests they are a source of infection for sympatric susceptible sheep populations. Sero-monitoring is required to understand the role of buffalo in maintaining BTV transmission and whether they must be included in vaccination programs to protect sheep adequately. Landscape factors, namely the coverage of post-flooding, irrigated and rain-fed croplands, had weak positive effects on outbreaks. The intimate links between livestock host, vector composition and agricultural practices in India require further investigation at the landscape scale.

Dixon L K, Sun H, Roberts H (2019)

African swine fever

Antiviral Research 165, 34-41


The continuing spread of African swine fever (ASF) outside Africa in Europe, the Russian Federation, China and most recently to Mongolia and Vietnam, has heightened awareness of the threat posed by this devastating disease to the global pig industry and food security. In this review we summarise what we know about the African swine fever virus (ASFV), the disease it causes, how it spreads and the current global situation. We discuss current control methods in domestic and wild pigs and prospects for development of vaccines and other tools for control.

Pang Y, Zhou D, Xue J, Zhou J, Zhang Y, Zheng G, Yuan S, Yao Y, Cheng Z (2019)

Interplay between CTHRC1 and the SU protein of avian leukosis virus subgroup J (ALV-J) facilitates viral replication

Virus Research 264, 32-39


The lifecycle of avian leukosis virus subgroup J (ALV-J), a typical tumorigenic retrovirus, is highly dependent upon host cellular proteins. However, there have been few studies directed at uncovering the host proteins responsible for ALV-J replication, which could provide insights into new strategies for ALV-J prevention and control. Here, we used proteomics to identify the association of differential levels of collagen triple helix-repeat-containing 1 (CTHRC1) and with viral replication. Our results revealed that CTHRC1 was significantly upregulated in ALV-J-infected cells in vitro, and these findings were confirmed in vivo. Additionally, CTHRC1 overexpression facilitated ALV-J replication, whereas CTHRC1 knockdown suppressed this activity. Moreover, we found that ALV-J drove CTHRC1 translocation from the nucleus to the cytosol through interactions with the ALV-J envelope glycoprotein. These results revealed CTHRC1 as a shutting protein recruited by ALV-J to facilitate viral replication.

Stevens L M, Moffat K, Cooke L, Nomikou K, Mertens P P C, Jackson T, Darpel K E (2019)

A low-passage insect-cell isolate of bluetongue virus uses a macropinocytosis-like entry pathway to infect natural target cells derived from the bovine host

Journal of General Virology 100 (4), 568-582


Bluetongue virus (BTV) causes an economically important disease in domestic and wildlife ruminants and is transmitted by Culicoides biting midges. In ruminants, BTV has a wide cell tropism that includes endothelial cells of vascular and lymphatic vessels as important cell targets for virus replication, and several cell types of the immune system including monocytes, macrophages and dendritic cells. Thus, cell-entry represents a particular challenge for BTV as it infects many different cell types in widely diverse vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. Improved understanding of BTV cell-entry could lead to novel antiviral approaches that can block virus transmission from cell to cell between its invertebrate and vertebrate hosts. Here, we have investigated BTV cell-entry using endothelial cells derived from the natural bovine host (BFA cells) and purified whole virus particles of a low-passage, insect-cell isolate of a virulent strain of BTV-1. Our results show that the main entry pathway for infection of BFA cells is dependent on actin and dynamin, and shares certain characteristics with macropinocytosis. The ability to use a macropinocytosis-like entry route could explain the diverse cell tropism of BTV and contribute to the efficiency of transmission between vertebrate and invertebrate hosts.

Thakur N, Bailey D (2019)

Advances in diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for Nipah virus

Microbes and Infection early view,


Nipah virus is an emerging zoonotic paramyxovirus that causes severe and often fatal respiratory and neurological disease in humans. The virus was first discovered after an outbreak of encephalitis in pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore with subsequent outbreaks in Bangladesh or India occurring almost annually. Due to the highly pathogenic nature of NiV, its pandemic potential, and the lack of licensed vaccines or therapeutics, there is a requirement for research and development into highly sensitive and specific diagnostic tools as well as antivirals and vaccines to help prevent and control future outbreak situations.

Tennant R K, Holzer B, Love J, Tchilian E, White H N (2019)

Higher levels of B-cell mutation in the early germinal centres of an inefficient secondary antibody response to a variant Influenza Haemagglutinin

Immunology 157 (1), 86-91
Publisher’s version:


Designing improved vaccines against mutable viruses such as Dengue and Influenza would be helped by a better understanding of how the B-cell memory compartment responds to variant antigens. Towards this we have recently shown after secondary immunization of mice with a widely variant Dengue envelope protein, with only 63% amino-acid identity, that IgM+ memory B-cells with few mutations supported an efficient secondary germinal centre (GC) and serum response, superior to a primary response to the same protein. Here, further investigation of memory responses to variant proteins, using more closely related Influenza haemagglutinins (HA), that were 82% identical, produced a variant-induced boost response in the GC dominated by highly mutated B-cells that failed, not efficiently improving serum avidity even in the presence of extra adjuvant, and that was worse than a primary response. This supports a hypothesis that over certain antigenic differences, cross-reactive memory B-cell populations have reduced competency for affinity maturation. Combined with our previous observations these findings also provide new parameters of success and failure in antibody memory responses.

Naguib M M, Verhagen J H, Samy A, Eriksson P, Fife M, Lundkvist Å, Ellström P, Järhult J D (2019)

Avian influenza viruses at the wild-domestic bird interface in Egypt

Infection Ecology and Epidemiology 9 (1), 1575687


Wild birds of the orders Anseriformes (mainly ducks, geese and swans) and Charadriiformes (mainly gulls, terns and waders) constitute the natural reservoir for low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) viruses. In Egypt, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 and LPAI H9N2 viruses are endemic in domestic poultry, forming a threat to animal and human health and raising questions about the routes of introduction and mechanisms of persistence. Recently, HPAI H5N8 virus was also introduced into Egyptian domestic birds. Here we review the literature on the role of wild birds in the introduction and endemicity of avian influenza viruses in Egypt. Dabbling ducks in Egypt harbor an extensive LPAI virus diversity and may constitute the route of introduction for HPAI H5N1 and HPAI H5N8 viruses into Egypt through migration, however their role in the endemicity of HPAI H5N1, LPAI H9N2 and potentially other avian influenza virus (AIV) strains – by means of reassortment of viral genes – is less clear. Strengthened surveillance programs, in both domestic and wild birds, that include all LPAI virus subtypes and full genome sequencing are needed to better assess the wild–domestic bird interface and form a basis for evidence-based measures to limit and prevent AIV transmission between wild and domestic birds.

Armson B, Wadsworth J, Kibona T, Mshanga D, Fowler V L, Knowles N J, Mioulet V, Reeve R, King D P, Bachanek-Bankowska K, Lembo T (2019)

Opportunities for enhanced surveillance of foot-and-mouth disease in endemic settings using milk samples

Transboundary and Emerging Diseases 66 (3), 1405-1410
Publisher’s version:


Under-reporting of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) masks the true prevalence in parts of the world where the disease is endemic. Laboratory testing for the detection of FMD virus (FMDV) is usually reliant upon the collection of vesicular epithelium and fluid samples that can only be collected from acutely infected animals, and therefore animals with sub-clinical infection may not be identified. Milk is a non-invasive sample type routinely collected from dairy farms that has been utilised for surveillance of a number of other diseases. The aim of this study was to examine the application of milk as an alternative sample type for FMDV detection and typing, and to evaluate milk as a novel approach for targeted surveillance of FMD in East Africa. FMDV RNA was detected in 73/190 (38%) individual milk samples collected from naturally infected cattle in northern Tanzania. Further, typing information by lineage-specific rRT-PCR assays was obtained for 58% of positive samples, and corresponded with the virus types identified during outbreak investigations in the study area. The VP1-coding sequence data obtained from milk samples corresponded with the sequence data generated from paired epithelial samples collected from the same animal. This study demonstrates that milk represents a potentially valuable sample type for FMDV surveillance and might be used to overcome some of the existing biases of traditional surveillance methods. However, it is recommended that care is taken during sample collection and testing to minimise the likelihood of cross-contamination. Such approaches could strengthen FMDV surveillance capabilities in East Africa, both at the individual animal and herd level.


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