The objective was to evaluate cellular immune response of captive white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to live Mycobacterium bovis bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccination and to determine diagnostic implications of these responses. In vitro proliferative and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) responses to M. bovis purified protein derivative (PPD) were detected beginning 9 days postvaccination. Responses to Mycobacterium avium PPD, however, generally exceeded responses to M. bovis PPD. Interferon-γ responses to M. avium PPD were not detected prior to vaccination nor in nonvaccinated deer, suggesting that vaccination with BCG boosted prior quiescent M. avium–sensitized cells. Both CD4 and γδ T cells from vaccinated deer proliferated in response to M. bovis PPD stimulation. Intradermal administration of M. bovis PPD resulted in increases in skin thickness of vaccinated deer beginning 24 hr postinjection. Such early reactions were characterized by edema and minimal mononuclear cell infiltration, whereas later reactions (i.e., 72 hr postinjection) were more typical of delayed type hypersensitivity. Upon in vitro activation with pokeweed mitogen, CD44 expression increased and CD62L expression decreased on lymphocytes from deer regardless of vaccination status. Likewise, M. bovis PPD stimulation of lymphocytes from vaccinated deer resulted in increases in CD44 expression and decreases in CD62L expression. These findings demonstrate the potential of BCG vaccination to elicit strong cell-mediated immune responses and appropriate alterations in CD44 and CD62L expression with in vitro stimulation of white-tailed deer lymphocytes. In relation to M. bovis diagnosis, vaccination of white-tailed deer with BCG can induce skin test responses that classify the animal as a tuberculosis reactor. In contrast, BCG vaccination will likely not interfere with tuberculosis testing by the IFN-γ assay.
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