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Development of Research Tools to Support Arthropod-Borne Virus Investigation


<p>Objective 1. Phylogeographical analysis of West Nile virus lineage 2 spread in Europe. This objective will assess the current distribution of West Nile virus lineage 2 in Europe and compare genomic variation of the virus across in current range. This information will be used to inform revision of current rapid molecular methods to detect all West Nile virus lineages.</p>

<p>Objective 2. Assessment of real-time RT-PCR assays for the detection of Usutu virus. This objective will assess or develop a rapid molecular method to detect Usutu virus for application in large-scale bird die-offs.</p>

<p>Objective 3. Isolation of mosquito cell-lines for use in arthropod-borne virus investigation. This objective will provide research models for studying arboviruses in vitro.</p>

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<p>This project will continue an ongoing program to develop emergency response in the event of an outbreak of an exotic arthropod-borne virus (arbovirus) within the United Kingdom.This program involves gaining a better understanding of potential arboviruses at risk of introduction including the current and potential distribution of livestock arboviruses, genetic variation of viruses and the availability of rapid detection methods (see recent review J. Biomed. Biotech. 2012, Article ID 719402). The recent outbreak of Schmallenberg virus, a virus related to a small group of orthobunyaviruses that cause congenital defects in ruminants, has highlighted the need to maintain vigilance for future livestock disease incursions and to continue investigation of the virus in association with the arthropod vector. Other viruses such as the flaviviruses, West Nile virus and Usutu virus are currently expanding their range within Europe and cause disease in livestock and wildlife. The factors that are driving virus emergence and range expansion are not fully understood and thus make prediction of when and where an emergence event could take place impossible. It is therefore cost-effective to plan for emergency response for exotic arbovirus outbreaks with a key component of this being the availability of rapid detection methods. The three objectives of the project are to investigate the current geographical distribution of West Nile virus lineage 2 and to underpin this with phylogeographic evidence (Ob1), to develop a rapid detection method for Usutu virus (Ob2) and finally to isolate mosquito cell lines appropriate for the investigation of mosquito-borne arboviruses that are at risk of introduction to the UK (Ob 3). Completion of these objectives will deliver novel and/or validated rapid detection methodologies. Research findings will be published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national/international meetings. The final objective will also deliver new tools for investigating arbovirus infection within the arthropod vector that will be of interest to the international scientific community. The delivery of rapid detection methods and tools for investigating arboviruses will be critical to assisting Defra in coordinating outbreak response strategies.</p>

Veterinary Laboratories Agency, UK
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