The successful applicant will be employed in the Orbivirus Research Group in close collaboration with the Entomology Group. Culicoides (biting midges) transmitted orbiviruses, such as bluetongue virus (BTV), represent important arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) of livestock both economically and in regards to their animal welfare impact. The Orbivirus Research Group studies innate and adaptive immune responses and pathogenesis of orbivirus infections in their mammalian hosts, while the Entomology Group investigates the role of arthropod vectors in the emergence, spread and persistence of these viruses.
A unique aspect of all arbovirus transmission is the specific and complex series of interactions between the virus and vector arthropod during blood-feeding, facilitated by arthropod saliva. Immune responses to arthropod blood-feeding and immune modulation functions of bioactive molecules in arthropod saliva have been shown to increase infectivity and virulence of many arboviruses. The saliva of certain culicoides species additionally contains proteases that can enzymatically cleave the outer capsid protein VP2 of some orbiviruses.
The aim of this project is to further investigate the effect of VP2 cleavage by culicoides saliva across different orbivirus strains and elucidate subsequent effects on viral cell entry into natural host target cells as well as anti-viral cellular responses. Furthermore the vector competence of different culicoides species for genetically characterised or engineered BTV strains will also be investigated. Understanding the role of vector blood-feeding and saliva inoculation on arbovirus infections and subsequent immune responses, as well as identifying viral and genetic factors influencing vector competence, is vital to fully understand how these viruses cause disease, are transmitted and ultimately may be controlled.
The position is integrated into a wider research programme at The Pirbright Institute to investigate the mammalian host-virus-insect vector interaction of culicoides-borne viruses. This post is funded for three years by an EU Horizon 20:20 consortium grant.
Fixed term for 3 years from start date
Up to £38,154
Orbivirus Research Group