African Horse Sickness Virus (AHSV) (Orbivirus genus, Reoviridae family) causes high mortality in naïve domestic horses with enormous economic and socio-emotional impact. There are nine AHSV serotypes showing limited cross neutralization. AHSV is transmitted by competent species of Culicoides biting midges. AHS is a serious threat beyond the African continent as endemic Culicoides species in moderate climates transmit the closely related prototype bluetongue virus. There is a desperate need for safe and efficacious vaccines, while DIVA (Differentiating Infected from Vaccinated) vaccines would accelerate control of AHS. Previously, we have shown that highly virulent AHSV with an in-frame deletion of 77 amino acids (aa) in NS3/NS3a is completely safe, does not cause viremia and shows protective capacity. This deletion mutant is a promising DISA (Disabled Infectious Single Animal) vaccine platform, since exchange of serotype specific virus proteins has been shown for all nine serotypes. Here, we show that a prototype NS3 competitive ELISA is DIVA compliant to AHS DISA vaccine platforms. Epitope mapping of NS3/NS3a shows that more research is needed to evaluate this prototype serological DIVA assay regarding sensitivity and specificity, in particular for AHSVs expressing antigenically different NS3/NS3a proteins. Further, an experimental panAHSV PCR test targeting genome segment 10 is developed that detects reference AHSV strains, whereas AHS DISA vaccine platforms were not detected. This DIVA PCR test completely guarantees genetic DIVA based on in silico and in vitro validation, although test validation regarding diagnostic sensitivity and specificity has not been performed yet. In conclusion, the prototype NS3 cELISA and the PCR test described here enable serological and genetic DIVA accompanying AHS DISA vaccine platforms.
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