Comparison of the two lumpy skin disease virus vaccines, Neethling and Herbivac, and construction of a recombinant Herbivac-Rift Valley fever virus vaccine

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

There are two broad aims to this project. The first aim is to compare and characterise two lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV) vaccines namely the vaccine based on attenuated Neethling LSDV (nLSDV) and Herbivac®LS (Herbivac). The second aim is to construct a recombinant LSDV expressing Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) genes. An LSDV vaccine is critical for sustainable control of lumpy skin disease (LSD). There are four commercially available live attenuated vaccines for LSDV, nLSDV, Herbivac, Lumpyvax and the Kenyan strain sheeppox virus (KS-1). In this study Herbivac was characterised by comparing it to its parent, nLSDV. Growth curves of the two viral strains were conducted in cell culture as well as in embryonated hens’ eggs. No notable difference in the growth rate of the two strains could be detected when the viruses were grown in cell culture, however a notable difference was detected when the viruses were grown on the chick allantoic membranes (CAMs) of embryonated hens’ eggs. When grown on CAMs a faster growth rate was observed for nLSDV compared to Herbivac. nLSDV also killed the embryos at 4 d.p.i where Herbivac did not. The two strains were then further characterised through histological analysis of CAMs after infection with each of the viruses. Overall, higher levels of hyperplasia and hypertrophy were observed in CAMs infected with either nLSDV or Herbivac compared to uninfected CAMs. Herbivac-infected CAMs resulted in thicker chorionic membranes and larger pocks compared to nLSDV. RVFV and LSDV both contribute to the disease burden among cattle in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The main aim of this study was to construct a recombinant Herbivac which expresses immunogenic proteins of Rift Valley fever virus (Herbivac-RVFV). Herbivac-RVFV was designed to express specific RVFV genes selected for their antigenic properties. The genes selected are also representative of the genes from recent viral outbreaks in the horn of Africa. The selection of outbreak relevant RVFV genes involved phylogenetic analysis of all full length M-segment and NC gene sequences available on Genbank. Phylogenetic trees were constructed for M-segments and NC genes and groups identified which were highly representative of sequences from recent outbreaks of the virus. Consensus sequences were derived from these groups and included in the transfer vector. The phylogenetic analysis also revealed that the sequences of current RVFV vaccines are phylogenetically distant from viruses isolated from current outbreaks, although high levels of sequence conservation was maintained across all viral strains. This is the first study in which the RVFV genes coding for proteins that will induce a protective immune response (Gn and Gc, as well as the nucleocapsid (NC) gene) were selected so as to be representative of current outbreak strains of the virus. These genes were inserted between LSDV ORFs 49 and 50, a novel insertion site. The transfer vector also contained an eGFP marker gene and an ECO-GPT selection gene, located outside of the LSDV flanking sequences. This meant a two-step isolation procedure, first to isolate the recombinant containing the entire transfer vector with eGFP and ECO-GPT, and then to isolate a recombinant with only the RVFV genes and not eGFP and ECO-GPT. Transient expression of RVFV proteins in cells infected with Herbivac and then transfected with the transfer vector was confirmed via western blotting and immunofluorescence. Here the proteins Gn, Gc and NC were shown to be expressed. In the present study, a single crossover Herbivac-RVFV recombinant was isolated through multiple passaging of cell lysates, originally obtained from Herbivac-infected FBT cells transfected with the transfer vector, in the presence of mycophenolic-acid selection medium.