Plant biotechnology journal 2017 08 0116(2) 442-450 doi 10.1111/pbi.12783
African horse sickness (AHS) is a debilitating and often fatal viral disease affecting horses in much of Africa, caused by the dsRNA orbivirus African horse sickness virus (AHSV). Vaccination remains the single most effective weapon in combatting AHS, as there is no treatment for the disease apart from good animal husbandry. However, the only commercially available vaccine is a live-attenuated version of the virus (LAV). The threat of outbreaks of the disease outside its endemic region and the fact that the LAV is not licensed for use elsewhere in the world, have spurred attempts to develop an alternative safer, yet cost-effective recombinant vaccine. Here, we report the plant-based production of a virus-like particle (VLP) AHSV serotype five candidate vaccine by Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transient expression of all four capsid proteins in Nicotiana benthamiana using the cowpea mosaic virus-based HyperTrans (CPMV-HT) and associated pEAQ plant expression vector system. The production process is fast and simple, scalable, economically viable, and most importantly, guinea pig antiserum raised against the vaccine was shown to neutralize live virus in cell-based assays. To our knowledge, this is the first report of AHSV VLPs produced in plants, which has important implications for the containment of, and fight against the spread of, this deadly disease.