Pirbright lead €5.6 million consortium to DEFEND against ASF

Scientists from The Pirbright Institute are spearheading a 31 member consortium named ‘DEFEND’ which has been awarded €5.6 million by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme to study two viral diseases that are emerging into Europe; African swine fever (ASF) and lumpy skin disease (LSD)
calendar icon 9 July 2018
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DEFEND aims to control the growing LSD and ASF epidemics in Europe by understanding what drives outbreaks of these diseases, by generating research that allows the development of new diagnostic tools and vaccines, and by working closely with decision-makers to make appropriate and rapid responses. The consortium partners include academia, government and industry, and come from 21 countries across Europe as well as Russia, Canada, Israel, Azerbaijan, South Africa and Australia.

The Defend consortium consists of 31 research members - experts in disease control and prevention - with the goal of eliminating ASF and LSD

ASF and LSD represent an immediate and serious threat to the pig and cattle industries in Europe and eastern and central Asia. ASF is a highly contagious disease of pigs which causes a haemorrhagic syndrome with up to 100% mortality. Since 2007 it has moved through Eastern Europe due to the spread of infection by wild boar and the absence of a vaccine.

LSD causes a poxvirus disease in cattle and is transmitted rapidly in warm, humid conditions, most likely due to insect-borne transmission. LSD entered Europe, the Balkans and Caucasus for the first time in 2015 causing the deaths of thousands of cattle through mortality and mandated eradication campaigns.

The consortium is led by Dr Pip Beard, head of the Large DNA Viruses group at Pirbright, who said: “DEFEND will give us the opportunity to coordinate one of the largest groups of ASF and LSD disease experts and will help us to focus research in a way that will have real impact on the ground. By partnering these 31 varied and specialised organisations we hope to streamline the journey from scientific discoveries to policy implementation that will ultimately help to control these devastating diseases”.

DEFEND is split into 15 inter-related work packages. Pirbright contributors include Dr Pip Beard, who will work on LSD vaccine designed for use in Europe and neighbouring countries, Dr Chris Netherton will be developing an ASF vaccine for wild boar and backyard pigs, Dr Paolo Ribeca will analyse the genetic sequences of LSD and ASF to develop DNA based diagnostic tools, Dr Nick Lyons will provide expertise on vaccine use, and Dr Bryan Charleston will characterise the cattle immune response against LSD. The Pirbright reference laboratories will be providing diagnostic input.

The Pirbright Institute

The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience.

With an annual income of nearly £26.1 million from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £5 million strategic investment from BBSRC during 2016-2017, the Institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.

For more information about The Pirbright Institute, click here

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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