The development and use of recombinant vaccine vectors for the expression of poultry pathogens proteins is an active research field. The adeno-associated virus (AAV) is a replication-defective virus member of the family Parvoviridae that has been successfully used for gene delivery in humans and other species. In this experiment, an avian adeno-associated virus (AAAV) expressing the infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) VP2 protein (rAAAV-VP2) was evaluated for protection against IBDV-virulent challenge. Specific pathogen free (SPF) birds were inoculated with rAAAV-VP2 or with a commercial intermediate IBDV vaccine and then challenged with the Edgar strain. IBDV-specific antibody levels were observed in all vaccinated groups; titers were higher for the commercial vaccine group. The live, commercial vaccine induced adequate protection against morbidity and mortality; nevertheless, initial lymphoid depletion and follicular atrophy related to active viral replication was observed as early as day 14 and persisted up to day 28, when birds were challenged. No bursal tissue damage due to rAAAV-VP2 vaccination was observed. Eight-out-of-ten rAAAV-VP2-vaccinated birds survived the challenge and showed no clinical signs. The bursa:body weight ratio and bursa lesion scores in the rAAAV-VP2 group indicated protection against challenge. Therefore, transgenic expression of the VP2 protein after rAAAV-VP2 vaccination induced protective immunity against IBDV challenge in 80% of the birds, without compromising the bursa of Fabricius. The use of rAAAV virions for gene delivery represents a novel approach to poultry vaccination.
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Vol. 52 • No. 2