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Research: Vaccine against African Swine Fever

Researchers from CReSA have demonstrated that protecting pigs against African Swine Fever is not science fiction.

These are the conclusions of a study recently published in the journal PLoS One. African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) is in continuous expansion since its last entrance in Europe through Georgia in 2007.

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a disease of domestic pigs caused by African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV). The fact that the disease is endemic in Sardinia and overall, in many Sub-Saharan African countries, where it causes important losses, provoked the reentering of the virus in Europe trough Republic of Georgia in 2007. Since then, the virus has continued its expansion through adjacent countries, including Russia, where the situation remains uncontrolled nowadays.

The lack of available vaccines against ASFV complicates the control of the disease even more. Therefore, developing an efficient and safe vaccine against ASF is a must.

The last results obtained by the research group from CReSA clearly demonstrate the possibility of protecting pigs against a lethal ASFV challenge by using DNA vaccines encoding 3 of the viral antigens (ASFV encodes more than 150 different proteins). Moreover, the relevance of the CD8+ T-cells (a lymphocyte subset capable of recognising infected cells and specifically destroy them) in protection, has been definitively confirmed. 

Dr. Fernando Rodríguez, principal investigator of this research line explains the results obtained: “Our initial work was based on preliminary studies performed in the mid nineties demonstrating the immunogenic properties of three ASFV proteins: p54, p30 and hemagglutinin (HA). In our study, we have been able to demonstrate that DNA vaccines (in the form of innocuous DNA plasmid molecules) encoding these three viral antigens, are capable of provoking a significant delay of the death of the animals after ASFV lethal challenge and more importantly, that 33% of the immunised pigs survive and totally recovered from the infection.   To achieve this protection, optimising the presentation of the vaccine encoded antigens to the specific CD8+ T-cells by ubiquitination (a label that marks proteins for intracellular degradation), was mandatory.  In fact, the protection conferred totally correlated with the presence of large number of specific CD8+ T-cells in the blood of surviving pigs with no need of antibodies-help.

This research group is currently in the process of characterising new viral antigens (within the rest of the ASFV 150 proteins) with potential to provoke protective CD8+ T-cell responses. “The final objective of our work is finding an optimal vaccine formulation capable to protect the haplotype-diversity found in our conventional pig farms. It will not be an easy task but certainly we believe that it could be feasible,” Dr. Rodriguez says.

The results of this study have been recently published in: Argilaguet JM, Pérez-Martín E, Nofrarías M, Gallardo C, Accensi F, Lacasta A, Mora M, Ballester M, Galindo-Cardiel I, López-Soria S, Escribano JM, Reche PA, Rodríguez F. DNA Vaccination Partially Protects against African Swine Fever Virus Lethal Challenge in the Absence of Antibodies. PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e40942. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040942.

Dr. Fernando Rodríguez González: Researcher of the CReSA. Principal investigator of the research line “Pathogenesis and profilaxis of Asfavirus infections" - Email: fernando.rodriguez@cresa.uab.cat

Download the full paper here.



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