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Vaccinal control of Marek's disease: Current challenges, and future strategies to maximize protection

Baigent, S.J., Smith, L.P., Nair, V.K., Currie, R.J.W.
Veterinary immunology and immunopathology 2006 v.112 no.1-2 pp. 78-86
immunology, immunopathology, Marek disease, vaccines, disease control, chickens, oncogenic viruses, feathers, vaccine development, vaccination
Marek's disease is an economically important lymphoid neoplasm of chickens, caused by oncogenic strains of Marek's disease herpesvirus. The disease can be successfully controlled by vaccination with attenuated or non-pathogenic MDV strains. However, vaccine failures do occur as field strains continue to evolve towards pathotypes of greater virulence, and this evolution is likely to be driven by the vaccines themselves. Two general strategies can be considered to improve protection by vaccination. Firstly by the development of novel vaccines, and secondly by maximizing the potential of existing vaccines. This second goal requires investigation of optimal timing and vaccine delivery route, and optimal vaccination regimes for different breeds of chick. Accurate quantitation of Marek's disease vaccine virus in vaccinated chicks will contribute significantly to our understanding of vaccinal protection. We recently developed a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for quantitation of CVI988 vaccine virus in the feather tips, a rich source of viral DNA which can easily be sampled in a non-invasive manner. This PCR test is now used commercially to confirm the successful vaccination of chicks. We have also used the PCR to examine various aspects of vaccination in experimental chicks and commercial chicks with a view to determining how vaccine level in feathers correlates with protection against challenge, and for identifying optimal timing and vaccine delivery route, and optimal vaccination regimes for different breeds of chick. In this article we review some aspects of the current vaccinal control of Marek's disease, before highlighting some of the problems associated with current vaccines and vaccination strategies, and the challenges for the future. We go on to discuss the development and use of our real-time PCR feather test, its current applications and potential opportunities in Marek's disease vaccine research.