Equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) is the cause of serious disease with high economic impact on the horse industry, as outbreaks of EHV-1 disease occur every year despite the frequent use of vaccines. Cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) are important for protection from primary and reactivating latent EHV-1 infection. DNA vaccination is a powerful technique for stimulating CTLs, and the aim of this study was to assess antibody and cellular immune responses and protection resulting from DNA vaccination of ponies with combinations of EHV-1 genes. Fifteen ponies were divided into three groups of five ponies each. Two vaccination groups were DNA vaccinated on four different occasions with combinations of plasmids encoding the gB, gC, and gD glycoproteins or plasmids encoding the immediate early (IE) and early proteins (UL5) of EHV-1, using the PowderJect XR research device. Total dose of DNA/plasmid/vaccination were 25 μg. A third group comprised unvaccinated control ponies. All ponies were challenge infected with EHV-1 6 weeks after the last vaccination, and protection from clinical disease, viral shedding, and viremia was determined. Virus neutralizing antibodies and isotype specific antibody responses against whole EHV-1 did not increase in either vaccination group in response to vaccination. However, glycoprotein gene vaccinated ponies showed gD and gC specific antibody responses. Vaccination did not affect EHV-1 specific lymphoproliferative or CTL responses. Following challenge infection with EHV-1, ponies in all three groups showed clinical signs of disease. EHV-1 specific CTLs, proliferative responses, and antibody responses increased significantly in all three groups following challenge infection. In summary, particle-mediated EHV-1 DNA vaccination induced limited immune responses and protection. Future vaccination strategies must focus on generating stronger CTL responses.
- DNA vaccination