Avian Metapneumovirus (aMPV) infections are a huge economical issue for the poultry industry worldwide. Although maternal antibodies do not protect turkey poults against turkey rhinotracheitis (TRT), almost no studies have been conducted so far regarding the impact of these antibodies on vaccine induced immunity development against aMPV infection. We conducted four experiments on commercial turkeys aimed at comparing local humoral and cell mediated immune response of maternally delivered anti-aMPV antibody positive (MDA+; Experiment I and II) and negative (MDA-; Experiment III and IV) turkeys following vaccination with an attenuated live aMPV subtype A vaccine at the day of hatch (Experiment I and III) or at two weeks of age (Experiment II and IV).
Regardless of the birds' age, vaccination of MDA- turkeys resulted in strong stimulation of CD8+ T lymphocytes in the Harderian gland and tracheal mucosa, whereas vaccination of MDA+ birds stimulated mainly CD4+ T cells in those structures. An increase in the level of anti-aMPV IgYantibodies was noted in the serum (but not in tracheal washings) as early as 7 days after vaccination, but only in birds possessing low levels (MDA+ birds vaccinated at 2 weeks of age) or no maternal anti-aMPV antibodies at the time of vaccination. In MDA+ turkeys vaccinated at hatch, the decrease in serum levels of maternal anti-aMPV antibodies proceeded faster (in comparison to control group), which, together with faster viral clearance, indicates that maternal antibodies can inhibit vaccine virus replication and influence the development of vaccine-induced immunity.
This study provides the first documented evidence that the frequency of TRT outbreaks in the field and/or failure of TRT vaccination could be correlated with differences in the immunological status and/or age of vaccinated turkeys.