Scientists map entire African swine fever virus genome

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Scientists have mapped genes across the African swine fever virus (ASFV) genome, which they believe could help in the search for a vaccine and antiviral drugs to prevent the devastating disease.

Researchers from the Pirbright Institute worked with UCL to map the expression of genes across the entire genome, which has helped to establish their order of activation as well as uncovering new genes.

In the study, published in the Journal of Virology, the researchers used next generation sequencing to analyse genes expressed by ASFV. From this they created the first complete genetic road map, which reveals the order that different sets of ASFV genes are turned on throughout its infection cycle.

Genes are activated through a process called transcription. This is carried out by a molecular machine called RNA polymerase, which serves as ‘gatekeeper’ by ensuring that the information coded in the DNA is expressed at the correct time during infection. The RNA polymerase finds genes based on specific DNA sequences, or ‘promoters’, that are located before a gene.

ASF continues to spread in Europe and Asia, but, currently, there is no immediate prospect of a vaccine becoming available, despite lots of ongoing research into developing one in various parts of the world.  The researchers said this study provides vital information that will help to progress research into desperately needed disease control methods.

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