Differential quantification of cloned CVI988 vaccine strain and virulent RB-1B strain of Marek's disease viruses in chicken tissues, using real-time PCR
The 'gold standard' vaccine against Marek's disease in poultry is the CVI988/Rispens virus, which is not easily distinguishable, antigenically or genetically, from virulent Marek's disease herpesvirus. Accurate differential measurement of the CVI988 vaccine and virulent viruses is important to investigate mechanisms of vaccinal protection. Minimal sequence differences between CVI988 and virulent MDV strains restrict the application of molecular diagnostic methods such as real-time PCR to distinguish between these viruses. The use of bacterial-artificial-chromosome (BAC) cloned CVI988 virus, which carries the BAC vector sequences in place of the U(s)2 gene, allows its differential quantification from virulent strains using real-time PCR assays that target the BAC vector sequence and the U(s)2 gene respectively. These novel assays allowed investigation of replication of both serotype-1 vaccine virus (cloned CVI988) and challenge virus (RB-1B strain) in tissues of individual chickens in an experimental vaccination-challenge model of Marek's disease.