BBSRC-funded studentship: A reverse genetics approach to study the role of non-neutralising epitopes in FMD vaccine induced protection

Lead Research Organisation: The Pirbright Institute
Department Name: UNLISTED


Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious disease affecting cloven-hoofed livestock. The causative agent of FMD is a small non-enveloped virus with a positive-sense RNA genome. The mutation rate of the virus is very high leading to existence of seven distinct serotypes of FMDV and multiple subtypes indicating significant genetic variability. Though vaccination is an important means to control FMD, immunization with one vaccine strain does not confer protection against the other serotypes and sometimes even between subtypes. Moreover, the molecular basis for vaccine induced protection and the breadth of antigenic cover provided by individual vaccines is poorly understood. Following vaccination both neutralising and non-neutralising antibodies are induced, however their relative importance in protection is not known. Studies carried out in the last two decades have mainly focused on the neutralizing antibodies which are considered as an important component in vaccinal protection. However studies using multiple Mab escape mutants have suggested the non-neutralising antibodies playing a very significant role in FMD vaccine induced protection. The identification of these epitopes and establishment of their significance in antibody mediated protection against FMD will contribute to development of effective strategies in designing better vaccines and in particular ones with a broader spectrum of cross-protection. The main aim of this studentship is to identify the genetic component of FMDV which plays a significant role in antigenic variability among different FMD viruses and to study their (non-neutralising epitopes) contribution in FMD vaccine-induced protection.


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