One of the main limitations of the vaccination of neonates from vaccinated or infected mothers is the interference by inherited maternal antibodies, which are known to inhibit the immune response against both live and inactivated vaccines. The efficiency of bypassing this inhibition by the transfer of an immunogenic glycoprotein gene, the gD gene of pseudorabies virus (PRV), into neonates was explored. The experiments were conducted in 1-day-old piglets, which are immunocompetent at birth. The same transcription unit (gD of PRV under the control of the adenovirus major late promoter) was delivered intramuscularly at birth either in the form of naked DNA or cloned in the genome of a replication-defective adenovirus. A booster injection of a conventional live PRV vaccine strain was given at 10 weeks of age, the replication of which was greatly restricted by the residual amounts of colostral antibodies in control animals. Piglets were challenged at the age of 16 weeks with a virulent PRV strain. The replication-defective adenovirus was able to efficiently prime piglets born to immune dams against gD in such a way that inoculation with the Bartha strain protected them against a subsequent challenge with the same level of efficacy in piglets born to naive or immune dams. In contrast, piglets born to immune dams into which the gD gene was not transferred, or transferred as naked DNA at birth, were not protected. These results open the way for early immunization of neonates born to vaccinated or infected mothers.


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