Bluetongue marker vaccine one step closer

Livestock farmers are set to benefit from improved Bluetongue vaccines in the future, following the latest research into the virus.

Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have successfully managed to assemble the virus outside a cell – a breakthrough likely to influence the development of future vaccines.

Project leader Polly Roy, professor of virology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said: “Bluetongue is an important virus to study because it poses such a threat to livestock farming.

“We have developed the tools and provided the instruction manual for developing new, more effective Bluetongue vaccines. This will not only be useful for combating Bluetongue, but will provide insights into fundamental virus assembly that will be useful for producing vaccines for other viruses.”

Current Bluetongue vaccines are produced by chemical treatment of the virus to make it inactive. It is hoped future vaccines will harness the structure of the virus – for example, a marker vaccine could be developed to allow identification of animals that have been vaccinated, and those that previously suffered the disease.

BBSRC chief executive prof Douglass Kell said: “This is an exciting development and offers great potential for future vaccine development.

“Using the tools of synthetic biology, we are now able to assemble viruses piece by piece in a way that gives us far greater understanding of how they work. This approach could allow us to make safer and more effective vaccines against a range of viral diseases.”

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