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Intramuscular DNA Vaccination of Juvenile Carp against Spring Viremia of Carp Virus Induces Full Protection and Establishes a Virus-Specific B and T Cell Response

Although spring viremia of carp virus (SVCV) can cause high mortalities in common carp, a commercial vaccine is not available for worldwide use. Here, we report a DNA vaccine based on the expression of the SVCV glycoprotein (G) which, when injected in the muscle even at a single low dose of 0.1 µg DNA/g of fish, confers up to 100% protection against a subsequent bath challenge with SVCV. Importantly, to best validate vaccine efficacy, we also optimized a reliable bath challenge model closely mimicking a natural infection, based on a prolonged exposure of carp to SVCV at 15°C. Using this optimized bath challenge, we showed a strong age-dependent susceptibility of carp to SVCV, with high susceptibility at young age (3 months) and a full resistance at 9 months. We visualized local expression of the G protein and associated early inflammatory response by immunohistochemistry and described changes in the gene expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and antiviral genes in the muscle of vaccinated fish. Adaptive immune responses were investigated by analyzing neutralizing titers against SVCV in the serum of vaccinated fish and the in vitro proliferation capacity of peripheral SVCV-specific T cells. We show significantly higher serum neutralizing titers and the presence of SVCV-specific T cells in the blood of vaccinated fish, which proliferated upon stimulation with SVCV. Altogether, this is the first study reporting on a protective DNA vaccine against SVCV in carp and the first to provide a detailed characterization of local innate as well as systemic adaptive immune responses elicited upon DNA vaccination that suggest a role not only of B cells but also of T cells in the protection conferred by the SVCV-G DNA vaccine.

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