Genomics-based vaccine could prevent deadly cattle disease

Rockville, MD--Every year, East Coast fever destroys the small farmer's dream of escaping poverty in Africa. Killing more than a million cattle and costing some $200 million annually, this tick-borne disease rages across a dozen countries in eastern and central Africa. Now, an international team of scientists has taken the first major step toward a vaccine to prevent East Coast fever. Their work, published in the February 13-17 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows how genomics can generate pivotal new vaccines.

In the study, scientists from five institutions, including The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), identify five vaccine targets, or candidate proteins that could form the basis for an East Coast fever subunit vaccine. Based on combined bioinformatics analyses and lab tests, these proteins appear to provide a protective immune response to the disease. "This initiative took just three years, after many years of scientists trying other methods," remarks Vishvanath Nene, a study author and molecular biologist at TIGR. "It's a huge jump forward."

To make the jump, researchers used the genome sequence of the parasite responsible for East Coast fever. A tick-borne parasite, Theileria parva, causes the disease. When ticks infected with T. parva bite cattle, they transmit the parasite, launching the disease that typically kills cattle within a month. In July, 2005, TIGR led a research team that published T. parva's genome sequence, representing roughly 4,000 genes, in Science.

In the current study, Nene, along with Malcolm Gardner and Claire Fraser-Liggett, also of TIGR, relied on known biology to search T. parva's genome for potential vaccine proteins. First, scientists know that immunity to the parasite, and thus East Coast fever, emerges from immune system cells known as killer T cells. Second, they know that T. parva is an intracellular pathogen--it

Contact: Kathryn Brown
The Institute for Genomic Research

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