Even though Newcastle disease virus (NDV) live vaccine strains can be applied to 1-day-old chickens, they are pathogenic to chicken embryos when given in ovo 3 days before hatch. Based on the reverse genetics system, we modified recombinant NDV (rNDV) established from lentogenic vaccine strain Clone 30 by introducing specific mutations within the fusion (F) and hemagglutinin-neuraminidase (HN) proteins, which have recently been suggested as being responsible for attenuation of selected vaccine variants (Mast et al. Vaccine 24:1756–1765, 2006) resulting in rNDV49. Another recombinant (rNDVGu) was generated to correct sequence differences between rNDV and vaccine strain NDV Clone 30. Recombinant viruses rNDV, rNDV49, and rNDVGu have reduced virulence compared with NDV Clone 30, represented by lower intracerebral pathogenicity indices and elevated mean death time. After in ovo inoculation, hatchability was comparable for all infected groups. However, only one chicken from the NDV Clone 30 group survived a 21-day observation period; whereas, the survival rate of hatched chicks from groups receiving recombinant NDV was between 40% and 80%, with rNDVGu being the most pathogenic virus. Furthermore, recombinant viruses induced protection against challenge infection with virulent NDV 21 days post hatch. Differences in antibody response of recombinant viruses indicate that immunogenicity is correlated to virulence. In summary, our data show that point mutations can reduce virulence of NDV. However, alteration of specific amino acids in F and HN proteins of rNDV did not lead to further attenuation as indicated by their pathogenicity for chicken after in ovo inoculation.
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Vol. 56 • No. 1