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PLoS One. 2016 Apr 7;11(4):e0153306. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153306. eCollection 2016.

Can VHS Virus Bypass the Protective Immunity Induced by DNA Vaccination in Rainbow Trout?

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Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.


DNA vaccines encoding viral glycoproteins have been very successful for induction of protective immunity against diseases caused by rhabdoviruses in cultured fish species. However, the vaccine concept is based on a single viral gene and since RNA viruses are known to possess high variability and adaptation capacity, this work aimed at evaluating whether viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus (VHSV), an RNA virus and member of Rhabdoviridae family, was able to evade the protective immune response induced by the DNA vaccination of rainbow trout. The experiments comprised repeated passages of a highly pathogenic VHSV isolate in a fish cell line in the presence of neutralizing fish serum (in vitro approach), and in rainbow trout immunized with the VHS DNA vaccine (in vivo approach). For the in vitro approach, the virus collected from the last passage (passaged virus) was as sensitive as the parental virus to serum neutralization, suggesting that the passaging did not promote the selection of virus populations able to bypass the neutralization by serum antibodies. Also, in the in vivo approach, where virus was passaged several times in vaccinated fish, no increased virulence nor increased persistence in vaccinated fish was observed in comparison with the parental virus. However, some of the vaccinated fish did get infected and could transmit the infection to naïve cohabitant fish. The results demonstrated that the DNA vaccine induced a robust protection, but also that the immunity was non-sterile. It is consequently important not to consider vaccinated fish as virus free in veterinary terms.

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