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1.  Peste des Petits Ruminants Virus, Eastern Asia 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(12):2176-2178.
PMCID: PMC4257806  PMID: 25419722
peste des petits ruminants virus; emergence; morbilliviruses; viruses; China; Asia
2.  Rescue of a vaccine strain of peste des petits ruminants virus: In vivo evaluation and comparison with standard vaccine 
Vaccine  2015;33(3):465-471.
•Rescue of a vaccine strain of peste des petits ruminants virus.•In vivo evaluation of rescued vaccine strain and comparison with standard vaccine.•1SStrategy for Differentiating Infected from Vaccinated Animals (DIVA).
Across the developing world peste des petits ruminants virus places a huge disease burden on agriculture, primarily affecting the production of small ruminant. The disease is most effectively controlled by vaccinating sheep and goats with live attenuated vaccines that provide lifelong immunity. However, the current vaccines and serological tests are unable to enable Differentiation between naturally Infected and Vaccinated Animals (DIVA). This factor precludes meaningful assessment of vaccine coverage and epidemiological surveillance based on serology, in turn reducing the efficiency of control programmes. The availability of a recombinant PPRV vaccine with a proven functionality is a prerequisite for the development of novel vaccines that may enable the development of DIVA tools for PPRV diagnostics. In this study, we have established an efficient reverse genetics system for PPRV Nigeria 75/1 vaccine strain and, further rescued a version of PPRV Nigeria 75/1 vaccine strain that expresses eGFP as a novel transcription cassette and a version of PPRV Nigeria 75/1 vaccine strain with mutations in the haemagglutinin (H) gene to enable DIVA through disruption of binding to H by the C77 monoclonal antibody used in the competitive (c) H-ELISA. All three rescued viruses showed similar growth characteristics in vitro in comparison to parent vaccine strain and, following in vivo assessment the H mutant provided full protection in goats. Although the C77 monoclonal antibody used in the cH-ELISA was unable to bind to the mutated form of H in vitro, the mutation was not sufficient to enable DIVA in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4315076  PMID: 25444790
Rescue; Reverse genetics; PPRV Nigeria 75/1; DIVA vaccine; Complete genome; In vivo evaluation
3.  Molecular Evolution of Peste des Petits Ruminants Virus 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(12):2023-2033.
Sequence data will increase understanding of virus evolution, adaptability, and pathogenicity.
Despite safe and efficacious vaccines against peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV), this virus has emerged as the cause of a highly contagious disease with serious economic consequences for small ruminant agriculture across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. We used complete and partial genome sequences of all 4 lineages of the virus to investigate evolutionary and epidemiologic dynamics of PPRV. A Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of all PPRV lineages mapped the time to most recent common ancestor and initial divergence of PPRV to a lineage III isolate at the beginning of 20th century. A phylogeographic approach estimated the probability for root location of an ancestral PPRV and individual lineages as being Nigeria for PPRV, Senegal for lineage I, Nigeria/Ghana for lineage II, Sudan for lineage III, and India for lineage IV. Substitution rates are critical parameters for understanding virus evolution because restrictions in genetic variation can lead to lower adaptability and pathogenicity.
PMCID: PMC4257836  PMID: 25418782
peste des petits ruminants virus; PPRV; rinderpest virus; measles virus; viruses; emergence; Bayesian phylogenetics; phylogeography; nucleotide substitution rates; time to most recent common ancestor; TMRCA; divergence; evolution; selection pressure; small ruminants; wildlife
4.  Complete Genome Sequences of Lineage III Peste des Petits Ruminants Viruses from the Middle East and East Africa 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(5):e01023-14.
For the first time, complete genome sequences of four lineage III peste des petits ruminants (PPR) viruses (Oman 1983, United Arab Emirates 1986, Ethiopia 1994, and Uganda 2012) originated from the Middle East and East Africa are reported here. The availability of complete genome sequences from all four lineages (I to IV) of the PPR virus (PPRV) would greatly help in a comprehensive understanding of the molecular evolution and emergence of PPRV.
PMCID: PMC4208319  PMID: 25342675
5.  Comparative studies on the genetic, antigenic and pathogenic characteristics of Bokeloh bat lyssavirus 
The Journal of General Virology  2014;95(Pt 8):1647-1653.
Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV), a novel lyssavirus, was isolated from a Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattererii), a chiropteran species with a widespread and abundant distribution across Europe. As a novel lyssavirus, the risks of BBLV to animal and human health are unknown and as such characterization both in vitro and in vivo was required to assess pathogenicity and vaccine protection. Full genome sequence analysis and antigenic cartography demonstrated that the German BBLV isolates are most closely related to European bat lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2) and Khujand virus and can be characterized within phylogroup I. In vivo characterization demonstrated that BBLV was pathogenic in mice when inoculated peripherally causing clinical signs typical for rabies encephalitis, with higher pathogenicity observed in juvenile mice. A limited vaccination-challenge experiment in mice was conducted and suggested that current vaccines would afford some protection against BBLV although further studies are warranted to determine a serological cut-off for protection.
PMCID: PMC4103065  PMID: 24828330
6.  Lyssaviruses and Bats: Emergence and Zoonotic Threat  
Viruses  2014;6(8):2974-2990.
The continued detection of zoonotic viral infections in bats has led to the microbial fauna of these mammals being studied at a greater level than ever before. Whilst numerous pathogens have been discovered in bat species, infection with lyssaviruses is of particular significance from a zoonotic perspective as, where human infection has been reported, it is invariably fatal. Here we review the detection of lyssaviruses within different bat species and overview what is understood regarding their maintenance and transmission following both experimental and natural infection. We discuss the relevance of these pathogens as zoonotic agents and the threat of newly discovered viruses to human populations.
PMCID: PMC4147683  PMID: 25093425
rabies; bats; lyssaviruses; emergence; zoonoses
7.  Antigenic and genetic characterization of a divergent African virus, Ikoma lyssavirus 
The Journal of General Virology  2014;95(Pt 5):1025-1032.
In 2009, a novel lyssavirus (subsequently named Ikoma lyssavirus, IKOV) was detected in the brain of an African civet (Civettictis civetta) with clinical rabies in the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. The degree of nucleotide divergence between the genome of IKOV and those of other lyssaviruses predicted antigenic distinction from, and lack of protection provided by, available rabies vaccines. In addition, the index case was considered likely to be an incidental spillover event, and therefore the true reservoir of IKOV remained to be identified. The advent of sensitive molecular techniques has led to a rapid increase in the discovery of novel viruses. Detecting viral sequence alone, however, only allows for prediction of phenotypic characteristics and not their measurement. In the present study we describe the in vitro and in vivo characterization of IKOV, demonstrating that it is (1) pathogenic by peripheral inoculation in an animal model, (2) antigenically distinct from current rabies vaccine strains and (3) poorly neutralized by sera from humans and animals immunized against rabies. In a laboratory mouse model, no protection was elicited by a licensed rabies vaccine. We also investigated the role of bats as reservoirs of IKOV. We found no evidence for infection among 483 individuals of at least 13 bat species sampled across sites in the Serengeti and Southern Kenya.
PMCID: PMC3983756  PMID: 24496827
8.  Engineering, Expression in Transgenic Plants and Characterisation of E559, a Rabies Virus-Neutralising Monoclonal Antibody 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2014;210(2):200-208.
Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) currently comprises administration of rabies vaccine together with rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) of either equine or human origin. In the developing world, RIG preparations are expensive, often in short supply, and of variable efficacy. Therefore, we are seeking to develop a monoclonal antibody cocktail to replace RIG. Here, we describe the cloning, engineering and production in plants of a candidate monoclonal antibody (E559) for inclusion in such a cocktail. The murine constant domains of E559 were replaced with human IgG1κ constant domains and the resulting chimeric mouse-human genes were cloned into plant expression vectors for stable nuclear transformation of Nicotiana tabacum. The plant-expressed, chimeric antibody was purified and biochemically characterized, was demonstrated to neutralize rabies virus in a fluorescent antibody virus neutralization assay, and conferred protection in a hamster challenge model.
PMCID: PMC4073784  PMID: 24511101
rabies; post-exposure prophylaxis; RIG; monoclonal antibody; Nicotiana tabacum
9.  Complete Genome Sequence of a Peste des Petits Ruminants Virus Recovered from an Alpine Goat during an Outbreak in Morocco in 2008 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(3):e00096-13.
Here, we announce the first complete genome sequence of a field isolate of a peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) from northern Africa. This isolate is derived from an Alpine goat that suffered from severe clinical disease during the 2008 outbreak in Morocco. The full genome sequence of this isolate clusters phylogenetically with the lineage IV isolates of PPRV, sharing high levels of sequence identity with other lineage IV isolates.
PMCID: PMC3650429  PMID: 23661470
10.  Production, characterization, and antigen specificity of recombinant 62-71-3, a candidate monoclonal antibody for rabies prophylaxis in humans 
The FASEB Journal  2013;27(5):2055-2065.
Rabies kills many people throughout the developing world every year. The murine monoclonal antibody (mAb) 62-71-3 was recently identified for its potential application in rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). The purpose here was to establish a plant-based production system for a chimeric mouse-human version of mAb 62-71-3, to characterize the recombinant antibody and investigate at a molecular level its interaction with rabies virus glycoprotein. Chimeric 62-71-3 was successfully expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana. Glycosylation was analyzed by mass spectroscopy; functionality was confirmed by antigen ELISA, as well as rabies and pseudotype virus neutralization. Epitope characterization was performed using pseudotype virus expressing mutagenized rabies glycoproteins. Purified mAb demonstrated potent viral neutralization at 500 IU/mg. A critical role for antigenic site I of the glycoprotein, as well as for two specific amino acid residues (K226 and G229) within site I, was identified with regard to mAb 62-71-3 neutralization. Pseudotype viruses expressing glycoprotein from lyssaviruses known not to be neutralized by this antibody were the controls. The results provide the molecular rationale for developing 62-71-3 mAb for rabies PEP; they also establish the basis for developing an inexpensive plant-based antibody product to benefit low-income families in developing countries.—Both, L., van Dolleweerd, C., Wright, E., Banyard, A. C., Bulmer-Thomas, B., Selden, D., Altmann, F., Fooks, A. R., Ma, J. K.-C. Production, characterization, and antigen specificity of recombinant 62-71-3, a candidate monoclonal antibody for rabies prophylaxis in humans.
PMCID: PMC3633812  PMID: 23371065
plant biotechnology; molecular pharming; PEP; tobacco
11.  Complete Genome Sequence of Ikoma Lyssavirus 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(18):10242-10243.
Lyssaviruses (family Rhabdoviridae) constitute one of the most important groups of viral zoonoses globally. All lyssaviruses cause the disease rabies, an acute progressive encephalitis for which, once symptoms occur, there is no effective cure. Currently available vaccines are highly protective against the predominantly circulating lyssavirus species. Using next-generation sequencing technologies, we have obtained the whole-genome sequence for a novel lyssavirus, Ikoma lyssavirus (IKOV), isolated from an African civet in Tanzania displaying clinical signs of rabies. Genetically, this virus is the most divergent within the genus Lyssavirus. Characterization of the genome will help to improve our understanding of lyssavirus diversity and enable investigation into vaccine-induced immunity and protection.
PMCID: PMC3446578  PMID: 22923801
12.  Early Events following Experimental Infection with Peste-Des-Petits Ruminants Virus Suggest Immune Cell Targeting 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55830.
Peste-des-petits ruminants virus (PPRV) is a viral pathogen that causes a devastating plague of small ruminants. PPRV is an economically significant disease that continues to be a major obstacle to the development of sustainable agriculture across the developing world. The current understanding of PPRV pathogenesis has been heavily assumed from the closely related rinderpest virus (RPV) and other morbillivirus infections alongside data derived from field outbreaks. There have been few studies reported that have focused on the pathogenesis of PPRV and very little is known about the processes underlying the early stages of infection. In the present study, 15 goats were challenged by the intranasal route with a virulent PPRV isolate, Côte d’Ivoire ’89 (CI/89) and sacrificed at strategically defined time-points post infection to enable pre- and post-mortem sampling. This approach enabled precise monitoring of the progress and distribution of virus throughout the infection from the time of challenge, through peak viraemia and into a period of convalescence. Observations were then related to findings of previous field studies and experimental models of PPRV to develop a clinical scoring system for PPRV. Importantly, histopathological investigations demonstrated that the initial site for virus replication is not within the epithelial cells of the respiratory mucosa, as has been previously reported, but is within the tonsillar tissue and lymph nodes draining the site of inoculation. We propose that virus is taken up by immune cells within the respiratory mucosa which then transport virus to lymphoid tissues where primary virus replication occurs, and from where virus enters circulation. Based on these findings we propose a novel clinical scoring methodology for PPRV pathogenesis and suggest a fundamental shift away from the conventional model of PPRV pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3572172  PMID: 23418464
13.  Interspecies protein substitution to investigate the role of the lyssavirus glycoprotein 
The Journal of General Virology  2013;94(Pt 2):284-292.
European bat lyssaviruses type 1 (EBLV-1) and type 2 (EBLV-2) circulate within bat populations throughout Europe and are capable of causing disease indistinguishable from that caused by classical rabies virus (RABV). However, the determinants of viral fitness and pathogenicity are poorly understood. Full-length genome clones based on the highly attenuated, non-neuroinvasive, RABV vaccine strain (SAD-B19) were constructed with the glycoprotein (G) of either SAD-B19 (SN), of EBLV-1 (SN-1) or EBLV-2 (SN-2). In vitro characterization of SN-1 and SN-2 in comparison to wild-type EBLVs demonstrated that the substitution of G affected the final virus titre and antigenicity. In vivo, following peripheral infection with a high viral dose (104 f.f.u.), animals infected with SN-1 had reduced survivorship relative to infection with SN, resulting in survivorship similar to animals infected with EBLV-1. The histopathological changes and antigen distribution observed for SN-1 were more representative of those observed with SN than with EBLV-1. EBLV-2 was unable to achieve a titre equivalent to that of the other viruses. Therefore, a reduced-dose experiment (103 f.f.u.) was undertaken in vivo to compare EBLV-2 and SN-2, which resulted in 100 % survivorship for all recombinant viruses (SN, SN-1 and SN-2) while clinical disease developed in mice infected with the EBLVs. These data indicate that interspecies replacement of G has an effect on virus titre in vitro, probably as a result of suboptimal G–matrix protein interactions, and influences the survival outcome following a peripheral challenge with a high virus titre in mice.
PMCID: PMC3709617  PMID: 23100360
14.  Ikoma Lyssavirus, Highly Divergent Novel Lyssavirus in an African Civet1 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2012;18(4):664-667.
Evidence in support of a novel lyssavirus was obtained from brain samples of an African civet in Tanzania. Results of phylogenetic analysis of nucleoprotein gene sequences from representative Lyssavirus species and this novel lyssavirus provided strong empirical evidence that this is a new lyssavirus species, designated Ikoma lyssavirus.
PMCID: PMC3309678  PMID: 22469151
Tanzania; African civet; rabies virus; West Caucasian bat virus; rabies virus; viruses; Lyssavirus; lyssaviruses; Ikoma lyssavirus; novel rabies virus; novel lyssavirus
15.  A universal real-time assay for the detection of Lyssaviruses 
Journal of Virological Methods  2011;177(1-24):87-93.
► Universal real-time PCR primer pair demonstrated to hybridize to and detect each of the known Lyssaviruses (including Rabies virus) with greater sensitivity than a standard pan-Lyssavirus hemi-nested RT-PCR typically used. ► Target sequences of bat derived virus species unavailable for analysis (Aravan-, Khujand-, Irkut-, West Caucasian bat- and Shimoni bat virus) were synthesized to produce oligonucleotides and the synthetic DNA was used as a target for primer hybridization.
Rabies virus (RABV) is enzootic throughout most of the world. It is now widely accepted that RABV had its origins in bats. Ten of the 11 Lyssavirus species recognised, including RABV, have been isolated from bats. There is, however, a lack of understanding regarding both the ecology and host reservoirs of Lyssaviruses. A real-time PCR assay for the detection of all Lyssaviruses using universal primers would be beneficial for Lyssavirus surveillance. It was shown that using SYBR® Green, a universal real-time PCR primer pair previously demonstrated to detect European bat Lyssaviruses 1 and 2, and RABV, was able to detect reverse transcribed RNA for each of the seven virus species available to us. Target sequences of bat derived virus species unavailable for analysis were synthesized to produce oligonucleotides. Lagos Bat-, Duvenhage- and Mokola virus full nucleoprotein gene clones enabled a limit of 5–50 plasmid copies to be detected. Five copies of each of the synthetic DNA oligonucleotides of Aravan-, Khujand-, Irkut-, West Caucasian bat- and Shimoni bat virus were detected. The single universal primer pair was therefore able to detect each of the most divergent known Lyssaviruses with great sensitivity.
PMCID: PMC3191275  PMID: 21777619
Lyssavirus; Rabies; Bat; SYBR Green; Real-time PCR; Synthetic DNA
16.  Evolutionary History of Rabies in Ghana 
Rabies virus (RABV) is enzootic throughout Africa, with the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) being the principal vector. Dog rabies is estimated to cause 24,000 human deaths per year in Africa, however, this estimate is still considered to be conservative. Two sub-Saharan African RABV lineages have been detected in West Africa. Lineage 2 is present throughout West Africa, whereas Africa 1a dominates in northern and eastern Africa, but has been detected in Nigeria and Gabon, and Africa 1b was previously absent from West Africa. We confirmed the presence of RABV in a cohort of 76 brain samples obtained from rabid animals in Ghana collected over an eighteen-month period (2007–2009). Phylogenetic analysis of the sequences obtained confirmed all viruses to be RABV, belonging to lineages previously detected in sub-Saharan Africa. However, unlike earlier reported studies that suggested a single lineage (Africa 2) circulates in West Africa, we identified viruses belonging to the Africa 2 lineage and both Africa 1 (a and b) sub-lineages. Phylogeographic Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo analysis of a 405 bp fragment of the RABV nucleoprotein gene from the 76 new sequences derived from Ghanaian animals suggest that within the Africa 2 lineage three clades co-circulate with their origins in other West African countries. Africa 1a is probably a western extension of a clade circulating in central Africa and the Africa 1b virus a probable recent introduction from eastern Africa. We also developed and tested a novel reverse-transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) assay for the detection of RABV in African laboratories. This RT-LAMP was shown to detect both Africa 1 and 2 viruses, including its adaptation to a lateral flow device format for product visualization. These data suggest that RABV epidemiology is more complex than previously thought in West Africa and that there have been repeated introductions of RABV into Ghana. This analysis highlights the potential problems of individual developing nations implementing rabies control programmes in the absence of a regional programme.
Author Summary
Rabies virus (RABV) is widespread throughout Africa, with the domestic dog being the principal vector. Dog rabies is estimated to cause 24,000 human deaths per year in Africa, however, this estimate is still considered to be conservative. Two sub-Saharan African RABV lineages (Africa 1 and 2) are thought to circulate in western and central Africa. We confirmed the presence of RABV in a cohort of 76 brain samples obtained from rabid animals in Ghana collected from 2007 to 2009. In addition we developed and tested a novel molecular diagnostic assay for the detection of RABV, which offers an alternative RABV diagnostic tool for African laboratories. Our analysis of the genetic sequences obtained confirmed all viruses to be RABV, however, unlike previous studies we detected two sub-Saharan African RABV viruses (Africa 1 and 2) in this cohort, which included a single virus previously undetected in West Africa. We suggest that there has been repeated introduction of new RABVs into Ghana over a prolonged period from other West African countries and more recently from eastern Africa. These observations further highlight the problems of individual developing nations implementing rabies control programmes at a local, rather than regional level.
PMCID: PMC3071360  PMID: 21483707
17.  Emerging Technologies for the Detection of Rabies Virus: Challenges and Hopes in the 21st Century 
The diagnosis of rabies is routinely based on clinical and epidemiological information, especially when exposures are reported in rabies-endemic countries. Diagnostic tests using conventional assays that appear to be negative, even when undertaken late in the disease and despite the clinical diagnosis, have a tendency, at times, to be unreliable. These tests are rarely optimal and entirely dependent on the nature and quality of the sample supplied. In the course of the past three decades, the application of molecular biology has aided in the development of tests that result in a more rapid detection of rabies virus. These tests enable viral strain identification from clinical specimens. Currently, there are a number of molecular tests that can be used to complement conventional tests in rabies diagnosis. Indeed the challenges in the 21st century for the development of rabies diagnostics are not of a technical nature; these tests are available now. The challenges in the 21st century for diagnostic test developers are two-fold: firstly, to achieve internationally accepted validation of a test that will then lead to its acceptance by organisations globally. Secondly, the areas of the world where such tests are needed are mainly in developing regions where financial and logistical barriers prevent their implementation. Although developing countries with a poor healthcare infrastructure recognise that molecular-based diagnostic assays will be unaffordable for routine use, the cost/benefit ratio should still be measured. Adoption of rapid and affordable rabies diagnostic tests for use in developing countries highlights the importance of sharing and transferring technology through laboratory twinning between the developed and the developing countries. Importantly for developing countries, the benefit of molecular methods as tools is the capability for a differential diagnosis of human diseases that present with similar clinical symptoms. Antemortem testing for human rabies is now possible using molecular techniques. These barriers are not insurmountable and it is our expectation that if such tests are accepted and implemented where they are most needed, they will provide substantial improvements for rabies diagnosis and surveillance. The advent of molecular biology and new technological initiatives that combine advances in biology with other disciplines will support the development of techniques capable of high throughput testing with a low turnaround time for rabies diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC2745658  PMID: 19787037
18.  Rational Attenuation of a Morbillivirus by Modulating the Activity of the RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(22):14330-14338.
Negative-strand RNA viruses encode a single RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) which transcribes and replicates the genome. The open reading frame encoding the RdRp from a virulent wild-type strain of rinderpest virus (RPV) was inserted into an expression plasmid. Sequences encoding enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) were inserted into a variable hinge of the RdRp. The resulting polymerase was autofluorescent, and its activity in the replication/transcription of a synthetic minigenome was reduced. We investigated the potential of using this approach to rationally attenuate a virus by inserting the DNA sequences encoding the modified RdRp into a full-length anti-genome plasmid from which a virulent virus (rRPVKO) can be rescued. A recombinant virus, rRPVKOL-RRegfpR, which grew at an indistinguishable rate and to an identical titer as rRPVKO in vitro, was rescued. Fluorescently tagged polymerase was visible in large cytoplasmic inclusions and beneath the cell membrane. Subcutaneous injection of 104 TCID50 of the rRPVKO parental recombinant virus into cattle leads to severe disease symptoms (leukopenia/diarrhea and pyrexia) and death by 9 days postinfection. Animals infected with rRPVKOL-RRegfpR exhibited transient leukopenia and mild pyrexia, and the only noticeable clinical signs were moderate reddening of one eye and a slight ocular-nasal discharge. Viruses that expressed the modified polymerase were isolated from peripheral blood lymphocytes and eye swabs. This demonstrates that a virulent morbillivirus can be attenuated in a single step solely by modulating RdRp activity and that there is not necessarily a correlation between virus growth in vitro and in vivo.
PMCID: PMC1280234  PMID: 16254367

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