Researcher studies vaccine targets for Rift Valley Fever

A doctoral candidate from Utrecht University in the Netherlands recently conducted a dissertation on the life cycle of the Rift Valley Fever virus and found two potential vaccine targets.

Steffen Matthijn de Boer, a PhD student with the Faculty of Humanities at the university, used classical molecular analyses and recently developed techniques to study the Gn and Gc proteins of the virus. The proteins, which are found on the exterior of the RVFV, are important targets for the immune system and could be used for the future development of potential vaccines.

The targets studied in the research could later lead to the development of an effective and safer vaccine used to protect livestock and humans worldwide.

Rift Valley Fever is a viral infection that occurs in both animal and humans in parts of the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. Epidemics of RVF resulted in major economic and social losses from the mortality and miscarriages of livestock.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, epidemics of RVF among large numbers of domestic animals, a situation referred to as an epizootic, typically occur in years with unusually heavy rainfall and localized flooding. The excess water allows mosquito eggs infected with the RVFV to transfer the virus to the livestock and humans on which they feed.

An RVF epizootic in 1950-1951 in Kenya led to the death of approximately 100,000 sheep.