University of Plymouth receives funding to target zoonotic infections

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  • 19th May 2017

Let’s spread the word instead!

Innovate UK has awarded University of Plymouth researchers over half a million dollars to develop a new type of vaccine designed to stop the spread of emerging zoonotic pathogens in the animals themselves, specifically those that cause Rift Valley Fever Virus and Q Fever, according to a press release.

This novel animal vaccine, called a Zoonoses Barrier Vaccine, has less strict approval requirements, meaning that compared with vaccines designed for direct use in humans, the predicted time to commercial availability of this type of vaccine is greatly reduced.

Innovate-UK

Michael Jarvis, PhD, lead researcher and associate professor in virology and immunology in the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, said in the release:

“The funding from Innovate UK will be critical to develop this innovative vaccine platform, in this case for two pathogens that are lethal to both agricultural animals as well as to the vets and farmers that are exposed to infected animals,”

Deforestation is dramatically increasing the rate at which animals transmit zoonotic microbes to humans, resulting in an increased risk for people to contract potentially fatal diseases like Ebola, Lassa fever, Rift Valley Fever Virus (RVFV) and Q Fever (QF). Because limited strategies exist to control these emerging pathogens, researchers are developing an initial ‘proof-of-concept’ project to target ruminant animal populations that can spread RVFV and QF to humans.

Jarvis and colleagues aim to use a bovine herpesvirus as a platform to deliver this vaccine, which can create an immune response in all common domestic ruminant animals tested. The vaccine, attenuated so that it relocated for only a short period in animals, has the potential to prevent the ‘abortion storms’ often associated with RVFV and QF infection in ruminant animals such as sheep, goats and cattle. By creating the vaccine with a reduced virulence of a pathogen, its safety will increase without reducing its effectiveness to produce good immune response.

“We are developing the same attenuated vaccine platform as an achievable means to address the bovine [tuberculosis] problem,” Jarvis said. “Such synergism can really benefit problems that at first appear so diverse.”

Disclosure: Jarvis reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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