Zika: Harnessing plant power for rational design of immunogens for use in diagnostic assays

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham


Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

Technical Summary

Laboratory confirmation of Zika virus infection is complicated by cross-reactivity of antibodies
with other members of the same virus family. This includes Dengue virus, which is
transmitted by the same species of mosquito as Zika and therefore also infects people in the
same regions where Zika virus is currently emerging. Therefore, it is important to be able to
distinguish between antibodies that have been raised against a previously encountered virus
and antibodies that indicate a recent or current virus infection. A traditional approach to
address this problem, which also occurs for Dengue and Japanese encephalitis virus in Asia,
is to test for antibodies generated early in the response to infection (IgM) to two viruses in
parallel. The virus that gives the highest value in the MAC-ELISA is taken to be the most
recently encountered virus. In the past decade, plant-expression of proteins, including viruslike
particles, has really come of age. This powerful technology will be harnessed in the
current project to generate more specific diagnostic reagents to allow antibodies to Zika virus
to be distinguished from antibodies generated to other flaviviruses such as Dengue.


10 25 50
Description Further collaboration with USP, Brazil 
Organisation Universidade de São Paulo
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I was able to visit the CoI (Professor Luis Ferreira) on the original award (MC_PC_15085) as a result of a University-sponsored trip to Brazil in 2019 - this was the first time we had met in person. Through this visit, we were able to re-ignite enthusiasm for collaboration and Professor Ferreira's postdoctoral researcher was able to pay a short visit to our labs in November 2019 to receive training in next-generation phage display applied to identify peptides that can distinguish between envelope domain III of Zika and dengue viruses. The plan had been for the PDRA to return in 2020 to complete this work after an application for travel funding to FAPESP with matched funding for consumables provided by the University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Science. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic meant that the funding was withdrawn.
Collaborator Contribution The visiting PDRA brought with them peptides they had expressed in Brazil for use in next generation phage display panning experiments in our labs.
Impact No outputs to date - hopefully the partnership will resume after the COVID-19 situation has stabilised in Brazil.
Start Year 2019
Description Joint PhD studentship with Moredun Institute 
Organisation Moredun Research Institute
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This is a joint PhD student for which the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham is contributing 50% of the student stipend, fees and consumables. I am directly supervising this student with Dr Kevin Gough, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham acting as secondary supervisor. The project is benefiting from experience gained during the previous award (MC_PC_15085).
Collaborator Contribution This is a joint PhD student for which the Moredun Research Institute is contributing 50% of the student stipend, fees and consumables. The supervisor at the Moredun Research Institute is contributing samples, expertise and will host the student for part of the studentship.
Impact This PhD student appointed on this collaboration started in January 2018. They were due to complete their period of registration in December 2020, but due to the impact of COVID, their period of registration has been extended by 3 months, therefore they are due to complete at the end of March 2021. They are currently analysing data and writing their thesis, after which a manuscript will be prepared for submission.
Start Year 2017