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J Virol. 2005 Mar;79(5):2666-77.

Discerning an effective balance between equine infectious anemia virus attenuation and vaccine efficacy.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, W1144 Biomedical Science Tower, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


Among the diverse experimental vaccines evaluated in various animal lentivirus models, live attenuated vaccines have proven to be the most effective, thus providing an important model for examining critical immune correlates of protective vaccine immunity. We previously reported that an experimental live attenuated vaccine for equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV), based on mutation of the viral S2 accessory gene, elicited protection from detectable infection by virulent virus challenge (F. Li et al., J. Virol. 77:7244-7253, 2003). To better understand the critical components of EIAV vaccine efficacy, we examine here the relationship between the extent of virus attenuation, the maturation of host immune responses, and vaccine efficacy in a comparative study of three related attenuated EIAV proviral vaccine strains: the previously described EIAV(UK)DeltaS2 derived from a virulent proviral clone, EIAV(UK)DeltaS2/DU containing a second gene mutation in the virulent proviral clone, and EIAV(PR)DeltaS2 derived from a reference avirulent proviral clone. Inoculations of parallel groups of eight horses resulted in relatively low levels of viral replication (average of 10(2) to 10(3) RNA copies/ml) and a similar maturation of EIAV envelope-specific antibody responses as determined in quantitative and qualitative serological assays. However, experimental challenge of the experimentally immunized horses by our standard virulent EIAV(PV) strain by using a low-dose multiple exposure protocol (three inoculations with 10 median horse infective doses, administered intravenously) revealed a marked difference in the protective efficacy of the various attenuated proviral vaccine strains that was evidently associated with the extent of vaccine virus attenuation, time of viral challenge, and the apparent maturation of virus-specific immunity.

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