AFRICAN SWINE FEVER
African swine fever (ASF) is a complex and devastating viral disease, for which there is no vaccine. It affects domestic pigs, wild boars and African suids, causing up to 95-100% mortality. Many countries in Africa, Asia and Europe are affected. ASF is currently the most important health and economic problem of the pig sector worldwide.
In addition to the activities of the International Reference Laboratories of the EU and FAO (https://asf-referencelab.info/asf/en/), the main research topics of the ASF group are:
- Transmission studies in animals, to determine the role of carriers in disease maintenance and spread in the EU
- The development of new diagnostic tests and adaptation of diagnostic assays to alternative clinical samples. Development of new tools allowing an early detection of infected animals.
- Biological and molecular characterization studies of circulating isolates in the EU and worldwide.
- In vivo experimental studies using different viral isolates to reproduce the disease and evaluate the clinical outcome.
- Genomic and transcriptomic studies. Identification of virulence markers and new genetic regions that allow for the molecular evolution tracing of the virus. Evaluation of the role of surviving animals in disease epidemiology.
- Vaccine development using different strategies with attenuated viruses and differential DIVA diagnostic methods.
- Adaptation studies to replicate the virus in established cell lines.
WEST NILE FEVER AND OTHER ARBOVIROSES
West Nile virus (WNV) causes a severe neuroinvasive disease in equids, birds and humans. It is an emerging disease whose incidence and geographical spread has dramatically increased in recent times, with severe impact in animal and human health.
Other viruses transmitted by arthropod vectors (arboviruses) such as Usutu, Crimean Congo, Bagaza, etc. are emerging in different parts of the world in a process that is linked to global change.
The main research topics are:
- In vivo pathogenicity studies with different WNV strains in avian hosts. Evaluation of host/pathogen interactions, cross-protection evaluation and transmission routes.
- Análisis de la dispersión y evolución de WNV y otros flavivirus en nuestro país mediante estudios serológicos y de epidemiología molecular.
- Spread and evolution analysis of WNV and other flaviviruses in our country using serological and molecular epidemiology studies.
- Development of tools to improve detection and control of these diseases in collaboration with human virology, entomology, public health and ecology groups using a “One Health” approach.
- Incidence studies in humans and animals
- Molecular characterization of circulating viral strains.
- Evaluation and improvement of diagnostic techniques in humans and animals.
DEVELOPMENT AND EVALUATION OF NEW DIAGNOSTIC TECHNIQUES
To fight against emerging diseases it is essential to have effective and reliable diagnostic techniques that are available as soon as possible. Our group has a wide expertise in developing diagnostic methods for pathogens with severe impact in livestock and public health. We collaborate with other research groups, institutions, sanitary bodies and companies, adapting to the sector needs and considering the epidemiological scenario, with the final objective of transferring the developed technology.
Our activities include the development, evaluation and validation of:
- Molecular diagnostic techniques using PCR.
- Serological diagnostic techniques such as ELISAs, indirect immunofluorescence, immunochromatography and seroneutralization assays.
- Detection and characterization tools based on microarrays technology or nanopore massive sequencing, extremely useful for rapid diagnosis of a sanitary emergency of unknown viral aetiology.
We undertake an intense technology transfer and cooperation activity with more than 60 countries from all continents by means of training courses, scientific-technical assistance, laboratory contingency plans and interlaboratory assays. This mission is carried out through the EU and FAO Reference Laboratory for ASF and through the EU financed project MediLabSecure (https://www.medilabsecure.com/) that promotes a “One Health” approach to facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration in 22 countries of the Mediterranean, Black sea and Sahel regions.
EURL y FAO RL 2020