OBJECTIVE: To develop a serotype 1 Marek’s disease (MD) vaccine from a very virulent MDV (vvMDV) pathotype and demonstrate safety and efficacy against early challenge with very virulent field strains in the presence of maternal antibody.
STUDY DESIGN: Strain BH 16 was isolated and attenuated by serial cell culture passage. One of two cloned passages was selected for vaccine development following early laboratory-scale protection trials in commercial birds. Comparative protection trials were carded out on the BH 16 vaccine and on a CVI 988 Rispens vaccine using commercial and SPF chickens. Challenge viruses used were either a low passage strain BH 16 virus, the Woodlands No. 1 strain or MPF 57 strain of MDV. The BH 16 vaccine was back-passaged in SPF chickens six times and virus recovered from the final passage and the original vaccine virus were tested for safety. The immunosuppressive potential of the BH 16 and Rispens vaccines was also assessed in parallel.
RESULTS: The BH 16 and Rispens vaccines induced comparable levels of protection when used as monovalent or multivalent vaccines, although protection achieved with the monovalent vaccines was lower. No gross tumour formation was evident in any birds receiving the BH 16 vaccine or bird-passaged virus, although microscopic lesions were present in 2/12 birds that received the bird-passaged virus. In tests for immunosuppression, there was no histological evidence of damage to either the bursa of Fabricius or the thymus.
CONCLUSION: The BH 16 vaccine was shown to be safe and at least as protective as the Rispens vaccine against three highly virulent MD challenge viruses.