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Laboratory for molecular virus characterization

Pestiviruses are enveloped positive-strand RNA viruses belonging to the family Flaviviridae which are subdivided into four genetically and structurally related species, bovine viral diarrhea-1 virus (BVDV-1), BVDV-2, classical swine fever virus (CSFV), and Border disease virus (BDV). Over the past few years an increasing number of atypical pestiviruses has been detected, which cannot be classified into one of the four recognized species due to significant differences on the sequence and protein level, such as e.g. the „Hobi“ virus, the „Giraffe“ virus, the „Antelope“ virus, and the „Bungowannah“ virus isolated from pigs with PMC syndrome which has been described just recently. The „Bungowannah“ virus shows the strongest divergence from the „classical“ pestivirus species and cannot be detected by the established Pan-Pesti diagnostic methods.

Pestiviruses occur worldwide and are the causative agents of significant animal diseases of domestic and wildlife animals. Bovine viral diarrhea/mucosal disease which occurs in cattle and is caused by BVDV has been notifiable in Germany since 2004. Classical or European swine fever, caused by CSFV, is an internationally notifiable animal disease of domestic pigs and wild boar which causes severe losses and is associated with trade restrictions for pigs and pig products. 

Acknowledging the significance of both pestivirus diseases, the FLI has established two reference laboratories, the national reference laboratory for bovine viral diarrhea/mucosal disease (NRL for BVDV/MD) and the reference laboratory for classical swine fever (NRL for CSF). Furthermore, the laboratory for molecular biology of the IVD concentrates in particular on the analysis and characterization of pestivirus proteins by means of reverse genetic systems, the investigation of the relationship of atypical pestiviruses, and the development of vaccines against BVD/MD and CSF

Research projects

  • Characterization and trans-complementation of BVDV replicons
  • Analysis and characterization of pestivirus proteins
  • Molecular biological investigations on the heterologous complementation of classical and atypical pestiviruses