BBSRC-funded studentship: Genetic studies of African horse sickness virus

Lead Research Organisation: The Pirbright Institute
Department Name: UNLISTED


Recent studies within the Arbovirus Research Group (ARG) have generated nucleotide sequence databases for bluetongue virus (BTV) and Epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV). These studies have established the extent of sequence variation within each of the ten genome segments of these Orbivirus species, have clarified the relationships that exist between different serotypes, and have identified major geographic groupings (topotypes). The data generated supported development of novel diagnostic assay systems that are now used by the BTV reference laboratory. They have also been used for molecular epidemiology studies, revealing the origins, movements and spread of individual virus strains/lineages, and have provided materials for novel-vaccine development. This project will extend these studies to African horse sickness virus (AHSV), to determine the levels of genetic variation that exist within each genome segment, with particular emphasis on the genes encoding outer capsid proteins of the virus that determine virus serotype. The data generated will show if the AHSV genome has the same levels of variation in individual segments as BTV and EHDV, or if its primary restriction to Africa has prevented development of distinct ‘topotypes’. For example, initial studies show very high levels of variation in genome segment 10. The project will initially analyse the full genome sequences of the nine reference strains of African horse sickness virus (using improved sequencing techniques developed within ARG) to establish a database for molecular typing and molecular epidemiology studies. These data will be extended to other strains to elucidate relationships between reference strains, the live vaccines used in Africa and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and newer isolates of the virus (that are already available at Pirbright). They will also support the development, evaluation and refinement of molecular assays for AHSV.


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