Protective immunity against avian influenza (AI) can be elicited in chickens in a single-dose regimen by in ovo vaccination with a replication-competent adenovirus (RCA)-free human adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad)-vector encoding the AI virus (AIV) hemagglutinin (HA). We evaluated vaccine potency, antibody persistence, transfer of maternal antibodies (MtAb), and interference between MtAb and active in ovo or mucosal immunization with RCA-free recombinant Ad expressing a codon-optimized AIV H5 HA gene from A/turkey/WI/68 (AdTW68.H5ck). Vaccine coverage and intrapotency test repeatability were based on anti-H5 hemagglutination inhibition (HI) antibody levels detected in in ovo vaccinated chickens. Even though egg inoculation of each replicate was performed by individuals with varying expertise and with different vaccine batches, the average vaccine coverage of three replicates was 85%. The intrapotency test repeatability, which considers both positive as well as negative values, varied between 0.69 and 0.71, indicating effective vaccination. Highly pathogenic (HP) AIV challenge of chicken groups vaccinated with increasing vaccine doses showed ∼90% protection in chickens receiving ≥108 ifu (infectious units)/bird. The protective dose 50% (PD50) was determined to be 106.5 ifu. Even vaccinated chickens that did not develop detectable antibody levels were effectively protected against HP AIV challenge. This result is consistent with previous findings of Ad-vector eliciting T lymphocyte responses. Higher vaccine doses significantly reduced viral shedding as determined by AIV RNA concentration in oropharyngeal swabs. Assessment of antibody persistence showed that antibody levels of in ovo immunized chickens continued to increase until 12 wk and started to decline after 18 wk of age. Intramuscular (IM) booster vaccination with the same vaccine at 16 wk of age significantly increased the antibody responses in breeder hens, and these responses were maintained at high levels throughout the experimental period (34 wk of age). AdTW68.H5ch-immunized breeder hens effectively transferred MtAb to progeny chickens. The level of MtAb in the progenies was consistent with the levels detected in the breeders, i.e., intramuscularly boosted breeders transferred higher concentrations of antibodies to the offspring. Maternal antibodies declined with time in the progenies and achieved marginal levels by 34 days of age. Chickens with high maternal antibody levels that were vaccinated either in ovo or via mucosal routes (ocular or spray) did not seroconvert. In contrast, chickens without MtAb successfully developed specific antibody levels after either in ovo or mucosal vaccination. These results indicate that high levels of MtAb interfered with active Ad-vectored vaccination.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2