Molecular studies of Bluetongue and related viruses

Lead Research Organisation: The Pirbright Institute
Department Name: UNLISTED


A reference collection of ‘well documented’ orbivirus isolates, including BTV, EHDV and AHSV from around the world, has been established at IAH (see :, as a basis for molecular epidemiology studies. The collection and associated sequence database include novel virus isolates and historical isolates from other laboratories. Sequence data generated (by this and associated projects) are used to help identify the origins and movements of individual orbivirus strain/lineages. They also represent an important resource for the design, evaluation and maintenance of existing and novel diagnostic assay systems, and vaccine development at IAH and elsewhere. Sequencing studies of individual orbivirus genome segments (by this and associated projects) provides information concerning the biological properties (structure/function), relationships, and continuing evolution of these viruses, particularly within European ecosystems. Purification and expression of virus particles and individual proteins of BTV, related orbiviruses and other arboviruses provides a basis for crystallisation trials, X-ray crystallography and structural determination. Antibodies raised against viruses, and individual viral proteins, will provide reagents for replication studies, assay and vaccine development (by this and associated projects). The project will also work towards developing reverse genetics systems for the orbiviruses and other multi-segmented dsRNA arboviruses, providing unique opportunities to explore relationships between gene sequence and biological properties of individual proteins and viruses.


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Arenas-Montes AJ (2013) Serosurveillance of orbiviruses in wild cervids from Spain. in The Veterinary record

Description One of the key achievements of this grant was the maintenance and expansion of a reference collection of orbivirus isolates at TPI. This collection (which is accessible via the internet) provides a basis for molecular epidemiology studies of bluetongue viruses around the world, including the emergence and movement of novel strains in Europe.

These studies have led to the development of novel diagnostic assay systems for the identification and typing of BTV and relate orbiviruses

These studies included full genome sequencing of the first BTV strain (BTV type 8) to invade northern Europe (in 2006) and the UK (in 2007).

This project provided the
Exploitation Route The Orbivirus Reference Collection (ORC) and associated sequence database represent a vital resource for molecular epidemiology studies of bluetongue and related orbiviruses.

By establishing a complete dataset for the serotype specific outer-capsid protein of the 24 known BTV serotypes, it has been possible for us (and others) to identify further novel BTV serotypes. On this basis a further 5 BTV serotypes have been discovered (current total 29 BTV serotypes).

The ORC has provided virus isolates for the development and testing of vaccines used against BTV-8 in Europe. It also provides unique identification numbers for well define virus isolates that be used as a point of reference to link data generated by different groups and researchers, adding value to the available information.

These virus isolates have also provided materials for follow on studies of the molecular epidemiology of BTV outbreaks in Europe and in other parts of the world (see BBS/E/I/00001720).

Diagnostic assay systems that were developed based on these studies have been used to detect and identify novel BTV outbrteak strains in Europe , and have been shared with colleagues in Australia, India, the USA, Brazil and many countries in Europe.

Real time RT-PCR diagnostic kits for the typing of BTV outbreak strains, were made available as a kit produced by LSI (now Thermo-Fischer) under licence.

The initial work completed in this project on the establishment of reverese genetics systems, showed some initial promise and laid a foundation for the later and very successful reverse genetics grant (BB1017259/1)
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description Virus was supplied from the Orbivirus reference collection for the development and testing of vaccines used to combat the BTV-8 incursion into northern Europe and the UK. Advice was provided to Defra, the EU and Veterinary Medicines Directorate concerning the surveillance, identification and control, through vaccination of BTV outbreaks in Europe.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Description "Understanding pathogen, livestock, environment interactions involving bluetongue virus" (PALE-Blu)
Amount € 6,300,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 727393-2 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 06/2016 
End 11/2020