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Virology. 2004 Apr 25;322(1):143-57.

An avirulent chimeric Pestivirus with altered cell tropism protects pigs against lethal infection with classical swine fever virus.

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Federal Research Center for Virus Diseases of Animals, Institute of Infectology, D-17493 Greifswald-Insel Riems, Germany.


A chimeric Pestivirus was constructed using an infectious cDNA clone of bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) [J. Virol. 70 (1996) 8606]. After deletion of the envelope protein E2-encoding region, the respective sequence of classical swine fever virus (CSFV) strain Alfort 187 was inserted in-frame resulting in plasmid pA/CP7_E2alf. After transfection of in vitro-transcribed CP7_E2alf RNA, autonomous replication of chimeric RNA in bovine and porcine cell cultures was observed. Efficient growth of chimeric CP7_E2alf virus, however, could only be demonstrated on porcine cells, and in contrast to the parental BVDV strain CP7, CP7_E2alf only inefficiently infected and propagated in bovine cells. The virulence, immunogenicity, and "marker vaccine" properties of the generated chimeric CP7_E2alf virus were determined in an animal experiment using 27 pigs. After intramuscular inoculation of 1 x 10(7) TCID(50), CP7_E2alf proved to be completely avirulent, and neither viremia nor virus transmission to contact animals was observed; however, CSFV-specific neutralizing antibodies were detected from day 11 after inoculation. In addition, sera from all animals reacted positive in an E2-specific CSFV-antibody ELISA, but were negative for CSFV-E(RNS)-specific antibodies as determined with a CSFV marker ELISA. After challenge infection with highly virulent CSFV strain Eystrup, pigs immunized with CP7_E2alf were fully protected against clinical signs of CSFV infection, viremia, and shedding of challenge virus, and almost all animals scored positive in a CSFV marker ELISA. From our results, we conclude that chimeric CP7_E2alf may not only serve as a tool for a better understanding of Pestivirus attachment, entry, and assembly, but also represents an innocuous and efficacious modified live CSFV "marker vaccine".

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