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Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program
Phase 7 (2017 Deadline)

Molecular characterization of Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae Pakistan strain for the establishment of effective diagnostics and vaccines
US Partner: Bryan Carson, Sandia National Laboratories
Pakistan Partner: Farhan Anwar Khan, University of Agriculture, Peshawar
Project summary
This project will identify candidate antigens for an effective diagnostic kit and vaccine against Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae (Mccp). This pathogen causes a severe, usually fatal disease in domestic goats known as contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP). The present lack of effective diagnostic and control measures leaves Pakistani farmers at perpetual great risk of financially disastrous CCPP outbreaks.

Progress Report

The primary goal of this project is to gather and analyze data supporting development of diagnostic tests and vaccines to mitigate contagious caprine pleuropneumonia in Pakistan. This disease of primarily goats and sheep is a substantial burden to agricultural productivity and survival of farmers and families in Pakistan. During this phase of the project, we have collected and analyzed (genome sequencing) clinical samples from a broad affected region in Pakistan. Preliminary results show that there are at least two distinct clades (variants) of the organism prevalent in different regions of the country. This information, combined with our planned efforts in the coming year, will help identify better methods to diagnose and vaccinate herds against this pathogen. Our vision is that this work will improve critical livestock health in Pakistan, and consequently economic and social stability.

The primary goal of this project is to create tools to help Pakistani farmers mitigate an economically debilitating infectious disease (contagious caprine pleuropneuminia) primarily of goats and sheep. These are staple livestock in many regions of Pakistan, and this disease impacts the poorest of farmers most gravely. Currently, diagnostics and vaccines for this pathogen are lacking due in part to the uniqueness of strains endemic to Pakistan and in part to the lack of attention worldwide to goat and sheep infectious diseases which are less economically significant in wealthy countries that rely more heavily on cattle and swine as livestock species.

To address this, veterinarian and researcher Dr. Farhan Anwar Khan and his team have traveled to many sites around Pakistan collecting nearly 1500 clinical samples from affected animals. They analyzed the samples by PCR to confirm the presence of the causative organism, Mycoplasma capricolum supspecies capripneumoniae, Mccp, and subsequently cultured the organism from positive samples. They have begun extracting DNA from the cultured samples, which will be sent to Dr. Bryan D. Carson in the USA for sequencing and genome assembly in the coming months. Because so few genome sequences from this organism exist in public databases, this effort will represent a major contribution to the field, and will be the first Pakistan strain sequences submitted for public access. The international team is confident these new data will encourage other researchers to contribute additional work and solutions.

The next phases of the project include:
1. Determining how Pakistan strains of Mccp are related to others from around the world
2. Screening the sera of infected animals to identify antibodies that can be used to create inexpensive field diagnostic tests for Mccp to control the spread and promote treatment of the disease
3. Identify which parts (proteins, peptides) of Mccp provoke the most potent immune response in goats and sheep in order to create a low cost, high potency vaccine that could ultimately be used to wipe out this substantial threat to poor farmers in Pakistan and worldwide wherever this disease threatens livestock