Our group studies immune responses to viruses affecting pigs and novel vaccine strategies, applying expertise in pig immunology and vaccinology for viral infections in veterinary species.
In the last few decades, the mouse model has tremendously contributed to the progress of research in immunology. However, it is worth noticing that research in large/unconventional animals has given pivotal information to immunology in general. The need for translational immunological research, the development of new animal models more adapted to the scientific question, and the acquisition of new knowledge in comparative immunology is increasing in importance every year.
The main aim of our group is to provide insights into immunological host-pathogen interactions by studying the immune system of the pigs in the context of natural relevant viral infections, such as African swine fever virus (ASFV). ASFV causes severe disease of domestic pigs that can result in up to 100% mortality with concomitant serious socio-economic impacts. There is no vaccine against ASFV. Historically, vaccine development has been brought about by an essentially empirical approach where antibodies were usually the major protective factor. However, there are numerous pathogens for which this approach has not proved protective, including ASFV, for which the reasons remain unclear.
Thus, other vaccination approaches are required, which can only be informed by a deeper knowledge of immune responses during host-pathogen interactions. The work in the group is directed into a better understanding of the immune responses required for protection in order to provide the information for rationally design a vaccine against ASFV.