Prevention of vertical transmission of Neospora caninum in C57BL/6 mice vaccinated with Brucella abortus strain RB51 expressing N. caninum protective antigens.
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Bovine abortions caused by the apicomplexan parasite Neospora caninum have been responsible for severe economic losses to the cattle industry. Infected cows either experience abortion or transmit the parasite transplacentally at a rate of up to 95%. Neospora caninum vaccines that can prevent vertical transmission and ensure disruption in the life cycle of the parasite greatly aid in the management of neosporosis in the cattle industry. Brucella abortus strain RB51, a commercially available vaccine for bovine brucellosis, can also be used as a vector to express plasmid-encoded proteins from other pathogens. Neospora caninum protective antigens MIC1, MIC3, GRA2, GRA6 and SRS2 were expressed in strain RB51. Female C57BL/6 mice were vaccinated with a recombinant strain RB51 expressing N. caninum antigen or irradiated tachyzoites, boosted 4 weeks later and then bred. Antigen-specific IgG, IFN-gamma and IL-10 were detected in vaccinated pregnant mice. Vaccinated mice were challenged with 5 x 10(6)N. caninum tachyzoites between days 11-13 of pregnancy. Brain tissue was collected from pups 3 weeks after birth and examined for the presence of N. caninum by real-time PCR. The RB51-MIC3, RB51-GRA6, irradiated tachyzoite vaccine, pooled strain RB51-Neospora vaccine, RB51-MIC1 and RB51-SRS2 vaccines elicited approximately 6-38% protection against vertical transmission. However, the differences in parasite burden in brain tissue of pups from the control and vaccinated groups were highly significant for all groups. Thus, B. abortus strain RB51 expressing the specific N. caninum antigens induced substantial protection against vertical transmission of N. caninum in mice.