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RR378 - Containment of GM plant viruses being developed as gene technology vectors

This project was carried out with a view to providing recommendations for good practice to ensure that genetically modified (GM) plant viruses engineered to produce novel proteins, such as vaccines, in plants remain contained within authorised research facilities and do not pose a risk of causing harm through accidental release (escape) into the wider environment. A literature review and experimental work were combined to identify the most commonly used plant virus vectors, the most likely causes of accidental virus dissemination and thus the real risks associated with the use of these viruses. Several plant viruses were identified as being regularly used as vectors for protein expression and gene silencing studies. Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), Potato virus X (PVX) and Cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) were selected for use in further experimental studies investigating risks of ‘accidental’ mechanical transmission for TMV and PVX as well as defining host and vector ranges for CPMV. The outputs of this report are recommendations for guidance on ‘good practice’ to be adopted in plant growth facilities to ensure appropriate levels of containment are achieved for the different virus systems involved.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2010-03-19