Evaluation of factors affecting vaccine efficacy of recombinant Marek's disease virus lacking the Meq oncogene in chickens.
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We previously reported that deletion of the Meq gene from the oncogenic rMd5 virus rendered it apathogenic for chickens. Here we examined multiple factors affecting Marek's disease vaccine efficacy of this nonpathogenic recombinant Meq null rMd5 virus (rMd5deltaMeq). These factors included host genetics (MHC haplotype), strain or dose of challenge virus, vaccine challenge intervals, and maternal antibody status of the vaccinated chicks. Studies on host genetics were carried out in five chicken lines comprising four different MHC B-haplotypes. Results showed that chicken lines tested were highly protected, with protective indexes of 100% (B*2/*15), 94% (B*2/*2), 87% (B*19/*19), and 83% (B*21/*21). At a challenge dose above 8000 plaque-forming units, differences in protection were observed between the two highly virulent strains examined (648A and 686). The interval between vaccination and challenge indicated a protective efficacy from 0 to 2 days varied greatly (12%-82%) after challenge with vv+686, the most virulent virus. Less variation and significant protection began at 3 days post vaccination and reached a maximum at 5 days post vaccination with about 80%-100% protection. Taken together, our results indicate that the factors examined in this study are important for vaccine efficacy and need to be considered in comparative evaluations of vaccines.