Project: Marek’s Disease Virus induced immunosuppression: From diagnosis to vaccination.

Marek´s disease virus (MDV) is a highly oncogenic alphaherpesvirus that causes high economic losses in poultry production. Beside acute death or extensive tumor formation, MDV induces immunosuppression (IS) thus increasing the susceptibility of chickens to other pathogens. Besides being an issue of animal health and welfare, it increases the need for pharmacological treatments and also for the frequency of vaccination against multitude of pathogens, as MDV infection was shown to strongly reduce vaccine responses. Furthermore, MDV vaccines themselves induce mild IS, as such causing a dilemma between the absolute necessity of a MDV vaccination and the reduced response to other vaccines. Though the phenomenon of IS has been recognised for decades, very little is known about the mechanisms behind MDV-induced IS to date. Our goal is to apply the unique expertise and the techniques developed over the last years by the consortium on MDV and chicken immunology to identify the basic mechanisms associated with IS, and to develop novel MDV vaccines with significantly reduced immunosuppressive properties. Evaluation of MDV-induced IS is currently restricted to the measurement of thymus and bursa atrophy, a gross and inaccurate method, which can only be performed post-mortem. Therefore, there is a definite need for establishing novel diagnostic tools that facilitate a quantitation of immunosuppressive effects that can be applied to a large scale in poultry production.

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Project partner

Number Name Role Country
Free University of Berlin Germany
French National Institute for Agricultural Research Coordinator France
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Germany
Pirbright Institute United Kingdom
Utrecht University Netherlands