Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Virology


Foot-and-mouth disease remains a major plague of livestock and outbreaks are often economically catastrophic. Current inactivated virus vaccines require expensive high containment facilities for their production and maintenance of a cold-chain for their activity. We have addressed both of these major drawbacks. Firstly we have developed methods to efficiently express recombinant empty capsids. Expression constructs aimed at lowering the levels and activity of the viral protease required for the cleavage of the capsid protein precursor were used; this enabled the synthesis of empty A-serotype capsids in eukaryotic cells at levels potentially attractive to industry using both vaccinia virus and baculovirus driven expression. Secondly we have enhanced capsid stability by incorporating a rationally designed mutation, and shown by X-ray crystallography that stabilised and wild-type empty capsids have essentially the same structure as intact virus. Cattle vaccinated with recombinant capsids showed sustained virus neutralisation titres and protection from challenge 34 weeks after immunization. This approach to vaccine antigen production has several potential advantages over current technologies by reducing production costs, eliminating the risk of infectivity and enhancing the temperature stability of the product. Similar strategies that will optimize host cell viability during expression of a foreign toxic gene and/or improve capsid stability could allow the production of safe vaccines for other pathogenic picornaviruses of humans and animals.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Gene, Bacteria, Microbiology, Vaccination, Virology, Smallpox


H3N2 viruses continuously acquire mutations in the hemagglutinin (HA) glycoprotein that abrogate binding of human antibodies. During the 2014-2015 influenza season, clade 3C.2a H3N2 viruses possessing a new predicted glycosylation site in antigenic site B of HA emerged, and these viruses remain prevalent today. The 2016-2017 seasonal influenza vaccine was updated to include a clade 3C.2a H3N2 strain; however, the egg-adapted version of this viral strain lacks the new putative glycosylation site. Here, we biochemically demonstrate that the HA antigenic site B of circulating clade 3C.2a viruses is glycosylated. We show that antibodies elicited in ferrets and humans exposed to the egg-adapted 2016-2017 H3N2 vaccine strain poorly neutralize a glycosylated clade 3C.2a H3N2 virus. Importantly, antibodies elicited in ferrets infected with the current circulating H3N2 viral strain (that possesses the glycosylation site) and humans vaccinated with baculovirus-expressed H3 antigens (that possess the glycosylation site motif) were able to efficiently recognize a glycosylated clade 3C.2a H3N2 virus. We propose that differences in glycosylation between H3N2 egg-adapted vaccines and circulating strains likely contributed to reduced vaccine effectiveness during the 2016-2017 influenza season. Furthermore, our data suggest that influenza virus antigens prepared via systems not reliant on egg adaptations are more likely to elicit protective antibody responses that are not affected by glycosylation of antigenic site B of H3N2 HA.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Microbiology, Virus, Vaccine, Vaccination, Influenza, Virology


Since it emerged in Brazil in May 2015, the mosquito-borne Zika virus (ZIKV) has raised global concern due to its association with a significant rise in the number of infants born with microcephaly and neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. We developed prototype subunit and adenoviral-based Zika vaccines encoding the extracellular portion of the ZIKV envelope gene (E) fused to the T4 fibritin foldon trimerization domain (Efl). The subunit vaccine was delivered intradermally through carboxymethyl cellulose microneedle array (MNA). The immunogenicity of these two vaccines, named Ad5.ZIKV-Efl and ZIKV-rEfl, was tested in C57BL/6 mice. Prime/boost immunization regimen was associated with induction of a ZIKV-specific antibody response, which provided neutralizing immunity. Moreover, protection was evaluated in seven-day-old pups after virulent ZIKV intraperitoneal challenge. Pups born to mice immunized with Ad5.ZIKV-Efl were all protected against lethal challenge infection without weight loss or neurological signs, while pups born to dams immunized with MNA-ZIKV-rEfl were partially protected (50%). No protection was seen in pups born to phosphate buffered saline-immunized mice. This study illustrates the preliminary efficacy of the E ZIKV antigen vaccination in controlling ZIKV infectivity, providing a promising candidate vaccine and antigen format for the prevention of Zika virus disease.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Vaccine, Vaccination, Immunology, Virology, Smallpox


Porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) is considered to be the primary causative agent of postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS), which has become a serious economic problem for the swine industry worldwide. The major genotypes, PCV2a and PCV2b, are highly prevalent in the pig population and are present worldwide. However, another newly emerging PCV2b genotype mutant, which has a mutation in its ORF2-encoded capsid protein, has been sporadically present in China, as well as in other countries. It is therefore important to determine the relative virulence of the newly emerging PCV2b genotype mutant, compared with the existing PCV2a and PCV2b genotypes, and to investigate whether the newly emerging mutant virus induces more severe illness.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Evolution, Amino acid, Acid, Microbiology, Porcine circovirus, Virology


In a previous in vitro study, the SupT1 cell line was explored as a decoy target for HIV-1, proposing SupT1 cell infusion as a possible cell-based therapy for HIV. In the present work, the previous in vitro model was translated into an in vivo setting. Specifically, Hu-PBMC BRGS mice were infected with a high input of HIV-1 LAI (100,000 TCID50), and 40 million 30 Gy-irradiated SupT1 cells were infused weekly for 4 weeks as a therapy. Blood samples were taken to monitor CD4+ T cell count and viral load, and mice were monitored daily for signs of illness. At the earliest time point analyzed (Week 1), there was a significantly lower plasma viral load (~10-fold) in all animals treated with SupT1 cell infusion, associated with a higher CD4+ T cell count. At later time points, infection proceeded with robust viral replication and evident CD4+ T cell depletion, except in one mouse that showed complete suppression of viral replication and preservation of CD4+ T cell count. No morbidity or mortality was associated with SupT1 cell infusion. The interesting tendencies observed in the generated data suggest that this approach should be further investigated as a possible cell-based HIV therapy.

Concepts: Antiretroviral drug, HIV, Gene, Cell, Cell biology, In vivo, In vitro, Virology


From October through mid-December 2015, influenza activity remained low in most regions of the United States. Activity began to increase in late December 2015 and continued to increase slowly through early February 2016. Influenza A viruses have been most frequently identified, with influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominating during October until early December, and influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 viruses predominating from mid-December until early February. Most of the influenza viruses characterized during that time are antigenically similar to vaccine virus strains recommended for inclusion in the 2015-16 Northern Hemisphere vaccines. This report summarizes U.S. influenza activity* during October 4, 2015-February 6, 2016, and updates the previous summary (1).

Concepts: Microbiology, Vaccine, Vaccination, United States, Influenza, Virology, Pacific Ocean, Influenza vaccine


ABSTRACT Emerging and reemerging diseases that result from pathogen host shifts are a threat to the health of humans and their domesticates. RNA viruses have extremely high mutation rates and thus represent a significant source of these infectious diseases. In the present study, we showed that a plant-pathogenic RNA virus, tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV), could replicate and produce virions in honeybees, Apis mellifera, resulting in infections that were found throughout the entire body. Additionally, we showed that TRSV-infected individuals were continually present in some monitored colonies. While intracellular life cycle, species-level genetic variation, and pathogenesis of the virus in honeybee hosts remain to be determined, the increasing prevalence of TRSV in conjunction with other bee viruses from spring toward winter in infected colonies was associated with gradual decline of host populations and winter colony collapse, suggesting the negative impact of the virus on colony survival. Furthermore, we showed that TRSV was also found in ectoparasitic Varroa mites that feed on bee hemolymph, but in those instances the virus was restricted to the gastric cecum of Varroa mites, suggesting that Varroa mites may facilitate the spread of TRSV in bees but do not experience systemic invasion. Finally, our phylogenetic analysis revealed that TRSV isolates from bees, bee pollen, and Varroa mites clustered together, forming a monophyletic clade. The tree topology indicated that the TRSVs from arthropod hosts shared a common ancestor with those from plant hosts and subsequently evolved as a distinct lineage after transkingdom host alteration. This study represents a unique example of viruses with host ranges spanning both the plant and animal kingdoms. IMPORTANCE Pathogen host shifts represent a major source of new infectious diseases. Here we provide evidence that a pollen-borne plant virus, tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV), also replicates in honeybees and that the virus systemically invades and replicates in different body parts. In addition, the virus was detected inside the body of parasitic Varroa mites, which consume bee hemolymph, suggesting that Varroa mites may play a role in facilitating the spread of the virus in bee colonies. This study represents the first evidence that honeybees exposed to virus-contaminated pollen could also be infected and raises awareness of potential risks of new viral disease emergence due to host shift events. About 5% of known plant viruses are pollen transmitted, and these are potential sources of future host-jumping viruses. The findings from this study showcase the need for increased surveillance for potential host-jumping events as an integrated part of insect pollinator management programs.

Concepts: Microbiology, Virus, Genome, RNA, Infection, Honey bee, Beekeeping, Virology


Poliomyelitis has nearly been eradicated through the efforts of the World Health Organization’s Global Eradication Initiative raising questions on containment of the virus after it has been eliminated in the wild. Most manufacture of inactivated polio vaccines currently requires the growth of large amounts of highly virulent poliovirus, and release from a production facility after eradication could be disastrous; WHO have therefore recommended the use of the attenuated Sabin strains for production as a safer option although it is recognised that they can revert to a transmissible paralytic form. We have exploited the understanding of the molecular virology of the Sabin vaccine strains to design viruses that are extremely genetically stable and hyperattenuated. The viruses are based on the type 3 Sabin vaccine strain and have been genetically modified in domain V of the 5' non-coding region by changing base pairs to produce a cassette into which capsid regions of other serotypes have been introduced. The viruses give satisfactory yields of antigenically and immunogenically correct viruses in culture, are without measurable neurovirulence and fail to infect non-human primates under conditions where the Sabin strains will do so.

Concepts: DNA, Microbiology, Virus, Poliomyelitis, Polio vaccine, Virology, Poliovirus, Albert Sabin


Influenza A virus (IAV) infection can be severe or even lethal in toddlers, the elderly and patients with certain medical conditions. Infection of apparently healthy individuals nonetheless accounts for many severe disease cases and deaths, suggesting that viruses with increased pathogenicity co-circulate with pandemic or epidemic viruses. Looking for potential virulence factors, we have identified a polymerase PA D529N mutation detected in a fatal IAV case, whose introduction into two different recombinant virus backbones, led to reduced defective viral genomes (DVGs) production. This mutation conferred low induction of antiviral response in infected cells and increased pathogenesis in mice. To analyze the association between low DVGs production and pathogenesis in humans, we performed a genomic analysis of viruses isolated from a cohort of previously healthy individuals who suffered highly severe IAV infection requiring admission to Intensive Care Unit and patients with fatal outcome who additionally showed underlying medical conditions. These viruses were compared with those isolated from a cohort of mild IAV patients. Viruses with fewer DVGs accumulation were observed in patients with highly severe/fatal outcome than in those with mild disease, suggesting that low DVGs abundance constitutes a new virulence pathogenic marker in humans.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Infectious disease, Microbiology, Virus, Infection, Influenza, Virology


Novel therapeutic options are urgently needed to improve global treatment of virus infections. Herbal products with confirmed clinical safety features are attractive starting material for the identification of new antiviral activities. Here we demonstrate that Cistus incanus (Ci) herbal products inhibit human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in vitro. Ci extract inhibited clinical HIV-1 and HIV-2 isolates, and, importantly, a virus isolate with multiple drug resistances, confirming broad anti-HIV activity. Antiviral activity was highly selective for virus particles, preventing primary attachment of the virus to the cell surface and viral envelope proteins from binding to heparin. Bioassay-guided fractionation indicated that Ci extract contains numerous antiviral compounds and therefore has favorably low propensity to induce virus resistance. Indeed, no resistant viruses emerged during 24 weeks of continuous propagation of the virus in the presence of Ci extracts. Finally, Ci extracts also inhibited infection by virus particles pseudotyped with Ebola and Marburg virus envelope proteins, indicating that antiviral activity of Ci extract extends to emerging viral pathogens. These results demonstrate that Ci extracts show potent and broad in vitro antiviral activity against viruses that cause life-threatening diseases in humans and are promising sources of agents that target virus particles.

Concepts: HIV, AIDS, Immune system, Infectious disease, Microbiology, Virus, Virology, Viral envelope