Fully attenuated meq and pp38 double gene deletion mutant virus confers superior immunological protection against highly virulent Marek's disease virus infection

Marek's disease virus (MDV) induces immunosuppression and neoplastic disease in chickens. The virus is controllable via an attenuated meq deletion mutant virus, which has the disadvantage of retaining the ability to induce lymphoid organ atrophy. To overcome this deficiency and produce more vaccine candidates, a recombinant MDV was generated from the highly virulent Md5BAC strain, in which both meq and a cytolytic replication-related gene, pp38, were deleted. Replication of the double deletion virus, Md5BAC ΔmeqΔpp38, was comparable with that of the parental virus in vitro. The double deletion virus was shown to be fully attenuated and to reduce lymphoid organ atrophy in vivo. Crucially, Md5BAC ΔmeqΔpp38 confers superior protection against highly virulent virus compared with a commercial vaccine strain, CVI988/Rispens. Transcriptomic profiling indicated that Md5BAC ΔmeqΔpp38 induced a different host immune response from CVI988/Rispens. In summary, a novel, effective, and safe vaccine candidate for prevention and control of MD caused by highly virulent MDV is reported.

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