Rinderpest virus (RPV) is a member of the genus Morbillivirus in the family Paramyxoviridae which causes an acute and often fatal disease in large ruminants. To examine the immune response to the virus nucleocapsid (N) protein, a recombinant vaccinia virus expressing RPV nucleocapsid protein (rVV-RPV-N) was used to vaccinate cattle. The recombinant vaccine induced low levels of non-neutralizing anti-N antibodies. RPV-specific cell-mediated immunity induced by the recombinant was assessed by measuring both the lymphocyte proliferation and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte responses. The protective immune response was examined by challenging the vaccinated cattle with either a highly virulent (Saudi 1/81) or a mild (Kenya/eland/96) strain of the virus. The vaccinated cattle were not protected against challenge with the virulent RPV strain, except they showed a slight delay in the onset of disease when compared with the unvaccinated controls. In cattle challenged with the mild strain, apart from a transient fever, no clinical signs of rinderpest infection were seen in the vaccinated cattle. One out of two control cattle showed a similar response but the other died from classic rinderpest disease. Virus-neutralizing antibodies were induced more quickly following challenge with the mild strain in vaccinated cattle compared to the control animals. These data suggested that the cell-mediated immunity induced by rVV-RPV-N could stimulate the rapid production of neutralizing antibodies following RPV challenge but this response was not sufficient to protect against challenge with a virulent strain of the virus. Protection was seen in one of three animals challenged with a mild strain of the virus; however, a greater number of animals would need to be tested to estimate the significance of the protection afforded by the N protein.


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