A field vaccine trial in Tanzania demonstrates partial protection against Malignant Catarrhal Fever in cattle
Malignant Catarrhal Fever (MCF) is a fatal lymphoproliferative disease of cattle that, in East Africa, follows contact with wildebeest carrying the causative virus alcelaphine herpesvirus 1 (AlHV-1). A vaccine field trial involving an attenuated AlHV-1 virus vaccine was performed over two wildebeest calving seasons on the Simanjiro Plain of northern Tanzania. Each of the two phases of the field trial consisted ofgroups of 50 vaccinated and unvaccinated cattle, which were subsequently exposed to AlHV-1 challenge by herding towards wildebeest. Vaccination resulted in the induction of virus-specific and virus-neutralizing antibodies, whilst some cattle in the unvaccinated groups also developed virus-specific antibody responses but only after the start of the challenge phase of the trial. PCR of DNA from blood samples detected AlHV-1 infection in both groups of cattle but the frequency of infection was significantly lower in the vaccinated groups. Some infected animals showed clinical signs suggestive of MCF but few animals went on to develop fatal MCF, with similar numbers in vaccinated and unvaccinated groups.This study demonstrated a baseline level of MCF-seropositivity among cattle in northern Tanzania of 1% and showed that AlHV-1 virus-neutralizing antibodies could be induced in Tanzanian zebu shorthorn cross cattle by our attenuated vaccine, a correlate of protection in previous experimental trials. The vaccine reduced infection rates by 56% in cattle exposed to wildebeest but protection from fatal MCF could not be determined due to the low number of fatal cases.
Keywords: alcelaphine herpesvirus 1, malignant catarrhal fever, vaccine field trial, vaccine efficacy, wildebeest