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J Dairy Sci. 2005 Jan;88(1):195-210.

Development of an adult-like cell-mediated immune response in calves after early vaccination with Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin.

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Periparturient Diseases of Cattle Research Unit, National Animal Disease Center, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Ames, IA 50011, USA.


Effects of neonatal vaccination on antigen-specific cellular and humoral immune responses of dairy calves have not been well described. The purpose of this study was to characterize the ontogeny of the adaptive immune response in calves sensitized to the attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis, bacillus Calmette-Guerín. Holstein bull calves were nonvaccinated (n = 6, vaccination controls) or vaccinated subcutaneously (n = 6) with bacillus Calmette-Guerín at 1 and 7 wk of age. Composition and functional capacities of blood mononuclear cell populations from calves were evaluated at 1 (prevaccination), 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 12 wk of age. Young adults (nulliparous heifers, n = 4) vaccinated in an identical manner were sampled concurrently to evaluate effects of animal maturity on the development of the adaptive immune response. Responses of nonvaccinated calves to recall antigen (Mycobacterium bovis purified protein derivative) ex vivo and in vivo (i.e., cutaneous delayed-type hypersensitivity) were minimal or nonexistent. Responses of cells from vaccinated calves and young adults to recall antigen, however, were evident as early as wk 2 after primary vaccination. Antigen-induced T cell subset proliferation, and secretion of interferon-gamma, nitric oxide, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha by cells from vaccinated calves were comparable to or greater than responses of vaccinated adults during the 11-wk study. Eleven weeks after primary vaccination, cutaneous responses of vaccinated calves and young adults to intradermal administration of antigen were pronounced and comparable, demonstrating the capacity of the bovine neonate to develop a vigorous cell-mediated immune response in vivo. Antibody responses (i.e., antibody concentrations in sera and in supernatants from antigen-stimulated cultures of blood mononuclear cells) of vaccinated calves, in contrast, were markedly lower than parallel responses of vaccinated adults. In conclusion, these results suggest that the bovine neonate can mount a vigorous, adult-like cell-mediated immune response when vaccinated at an early age.

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