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Pirbright collaboration provides tools for peste des petits ruminants eradication

The PPR vaccination campaign in Chennai, India. Copyright: Satya Parida / Pirbright Institute
News from: The Pirbright Institute

Scientists from The Pirbright Institute’s Vaccine Differentiation group have recently returned from Chennai in India, where they conducted a mass peste des petits ruminants (PPR) vaccination campaign and awareness programme.

The trip marked the end of a four year collaborative project that has successfully uncovered important details about the PPR virus and generated tools to help eradicate the disease.

Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), also known as goat plague, is highly contagious and infects small ruminants such as sheep and goats, causing up to 90% mortality. The disease is prevalent across large parts of Africa, the Middle East, India and China and is estimated to cost between US$1.4 billion and US$2.1 billion globally each year.

The recently completed project brought Pirbright together with four other specialist organisations to coordinate PPR research and the vaccination campaign in India; Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS), Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB) and National Institute of Veterinary Epidemiology and Disease Informatics (NIVEDI).

Over 400 sheep and goats were vaccinated in a single day. Copyright: Satya Parida / Pirbright Institute
Over 400 sheep and goats were vaccinated in a single day. Copyright: Satya Parida / The Pirbright Institute

“Over 40 vets joined our campaign and we administered vaccines to over 400 sheep and goats in a single day. We also ran an awareness camp where we provided farmers and vets alike with expert guidance on diagnosing clinical signs of PPR and what measures they could take to reduce its spread”, said Professor Satya Parida from Pirbright, who led the collaborative effort with Dr Dhinakar Raj from TANUVAS.

Alongside the campaign, the team held their final workshop at TANUVAS, concluding the project which was supported by a Farmed Animal Disease and Health (FADH) grant joint funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Indian Government’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

BBSRC Deputy Chief Executive, Steve Visscher, said: “As part of UK Research and Innovation, BBSRC continues to promote international collaborations for bioscience research. The work with The Pirbright Institute illustrates how collaborating with the best researchers overseas can help move towards global eradication of diseases such as PPR, which can be so devastating for livestock owners in local communities.”

The project covered many areas of research which are essential for understanding PPR and creating tools to help control and prevent the disease. The team are filing a patent application for their newly developed PPR vaccine, which is the first to differentiate between vaccinated and infected animals (DIVA) - a quality that enables livestock owners to protect their animals whilst continuing to trade.

The team have also investigated how the PPR virus (PPRV) infects sheep and goats and how their immune systems respond. By inserting green fluorescent protein into virulent PPRV and administering the modified virus to goats, they demonstrated that PPRV primarily infects the tonsils, challenging the earlier belief that the virus first replicates in the respiratory tract epithelial cells. The collaborative project has also generated better diagnostic tests for use in the field and laboratory, and preliminary research has identified why some Indian breeds of goats and sheep are resistant to the disease, which could help scientists to create PPRV resistant breeds in the future.

The Vaccine Differentiation group at Pirbright has been working towards PPR eradication since 2007, and welcomed the global eradication programme introduced by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in 2017. “Although our project has now concluded, the programme created by the FAO and OIE will help us to forge more collaborations with other research groups working towards the common goal of PPR eradication, which will ultimately help to reduce the devastating impact the disease has on the economy and food security of affected countries”, said Professor Parida.


About The Pirbright Institute

The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience.

With an annual income of nearly £32.1 million from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £14.3 million strategic investment from BBSRC during 2017-2018, the institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.

Tags: food security news livestock animal health The Pirbright Institute