Vaccine strain selection for emerging foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) outbreaks in enzootic countries can be addressed through antigenic and genetic characterisation of recently circulating viruses. A total of 56 serotype A FMDVs isolated between 1998 and 2012, from Central, East and North African countries were characterised antigenically by virus neutralisation test using antisera to three existing and four candidate vaccine strains and, genetically by characterising the full capsid sequence data. A Bayesian analysis of the capsid sequence data revealed the viruses to be of either African or Asian topotypes with subdivision of the African topotype viruses into four genotypes (Genotypes I, II, IV and VII). The existing vaccine strains were found to be least cross-reactive (good matches observed for only 5.4–46.4% of the sampled viruses). Three bovine antisera, raised against A-EA-2007, A-EA-1981 and A-EA-1984 viruses, exhibited broad cross-neutralisation, towards more than 85% of the circulating viruses. Of the three vaccines, A-EA-2007 was the best showing more than 90% in-vitro cross-protection, as well as being the most recent amongst the vaccine strains used in this study. It therefore appears antigenically suitable as a vaccine strain to be used in the region in FMD control programmes.
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