A recombinant Newcastle disease virus (NDV) was engineered to express the hemagglutinin (HA) gene of avian influenza virus (AIV) subtype H7. The HA gene was inserted between the genes encoding NDV fusion and hemagglutinin–neuraminidase proteins. Within the H7 open reading frame, an NDV gene end-like sequence was eliminated by silent mutation. The expression of H7 protein was detected by western blot analysis and indirect immunofluorescence. The existence of H7 protein in the envelope of recombinant Newcastle disease virions was shown by immunoelectron microscopy. The protective efficacy of recombinant NDVH7m against virulent NDV, as well as against highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV), was evaluated in specific-pathogen-free chickens. After a single immunization, all chickens developed NDV-specific, as well as AIV H7-specific, antibodies and were completely protected from clinical disease after infection with a lethal dose of virulent NDV or the homologous H7N1 HPAIV, while all control animals died within four days. Shedding of AIV challenge virus was strongly reduced compared to nonvaccinated control birds. Furthermore, the immunized birds developed antibodies against the AIV nucleoprotein after challenge infection. Thus, NDVH7m could be used as a marker vaccine against subtype H7 avian influenza.
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Vol. 53 • No. 2