Projects taking on cattle and pig diseases receive €3.5 million backing

Two projects coordinated by researchers at The Pirbright Institute designed to improve pig and cattle health have received a combined total of €3.5 million in funding.

The research aims to tackle three important livestock viruses – bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) in cattle, and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and African swine fever virus (ASFV) in pigs.

The first project, called NEOVACC, is coordinated by Pirbright’s Professor Simon Graham and aims to develop vaccine strategies to improve protection of new-born animals against BRSV and PRRSV. It will receive €2.1 million to test vaccine strategies designed to enhance immune responses against these diseases in new-borns.

Six research partners will work together to improve protection by specifically targeting the vaccines to new-born immune systems, enhancing vaccine delivery and engineering drugs that boost new-born responses to vaccines.

Professor Graham said he hoped the research would provide young animals with enhanced protection against two important endemic diseases.

The second project, ASFVInt, focuses on identifying the roles of around half of the 150-170 genes contained in the ASFV genome.

This deadly pig disease caused China US$ 141 billion in direct economic losses in 2019 and the spread of ASF in the EU continues to pose a risk to the health of animals and the economies of UK and EU countries.

There are currently no vaccines or treatments available for ASF, so understanding which ASFV genes are important for replication and immune system interaction will help scientists to develop these vital disease control tools.

Co-led by Pirbright’s Dr Chris Netherton, six partners will receive €1.4 million to investigate 80 ASFV genes and determine what they each do during infection, with the aim of providing new pathways for antivirals to target or additional genes that could be used in vaccine development.

Dr Chris Netherton said: “Control measures against ASFV are limited by our relatively poor understanding of how ASFV manipulates the host immune response. The ASFVint project will help fill this gap by bringing together expertise from a range of disciplines brought by partners drawn from across Europe.”

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