PRRS vaccine can overcome maternal immunity in newborn piglets

20 November 2018, at 12:00am

New research shows that vaccination of 1-day-old pigs with a porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) modified live attenuated virus vaccine is able to overcome maternal immunity

Authors Monica Balasch, Maria Fort, Lucas P Taylor and Jay G Calvert


The objective of the study was to evaluate the influence of maternally derived antibodies (MDA) on the efficacy of a PRRSV-1 based attenuated vaccine, when administered in 1 day-old piglets by the intramuscular route. The protective immunity of the modified live virus vaccine was evaluated in pigs born from seropositive sows, vaccinated at 1 day of age, upon inoculation with a PRRSV-1 isolate. The animals were challenged when the levels of MDAs detected by seroneutralisation test (SNT) in the non-vaccinated control group became undetectable (10 weeks after vaccination).


A protective effect of vaccination was observed since a significant reduction of viral load in serum compared to the control group was detected in all sampling days after challenge; efficacy was supported by the significant reduction of nasal and oral shedding as well as in rectal temperatures. Clinical signs were not expected after the inoculation of a PRRSV-1 subtype 1 challenge strain. However, the challenge virus was able to develop fever in 61% of the control pigs. Vaccination had a positive impact on rectal temperatures since the percentage of pigs that had fever at least once after challenge was reduced to 31% in vaccinated animals, and control pigs had significantly higher rectal temperatures than vaccinated pigs 3 days post-challenge. The lack of a vaccination effect in body weight gain was probably due to the short evaluation period after challenge (10 days). In the vaccinated group, 9/16 pigs (56%) experienced an increase in ELISA S/P ratio from the day of vaccination to 67 days post-vaccination. All vaccinated pigs were seropositive before challenge, indicating the development of an antibody response following vaccination even in the face of MDAs. In contrast to ELISA results, only 2/16 vaccinated pigs developed neutralizing antibodies detectable by a SNT that used a subtype 1 MA-104 adapted strain. Even in the absence of SN antibodies, vaccinated pigs were protected from challenge with a heterologous strain. The role of cell-mediated immunity should be considered, if protection was not mediated by SN antibodies only.


The efficacy of the attenuated PRRSV-1 vaccine in 1-day-old pigs seropositive to PRRSV prior to a PRRSV-1 challenge was demonstrated by improvement of clinical, virological and immunological variables. With the current experimental design, maternal immunity did not interfere with the development of a protective immune response against a PRRSV-1 challenge, after vaccination of 1 day-old pigs. Confirmation of these results under field conditions will be needed.

Monica Balasch, Maria Fort, Lucas P Taylor and Jay G Calvert (2018). Porcine Health Management, 4:25

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Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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