Cell-mediated immunity is thought to play a decisive role in protecting cats against feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a progressive and lethal coronavirus disease. In view of the potential of DNA vaccines to induce cell-mediated responses, their efficacy to induce protective immunity in cats was evaluated. The membrane (M) and nucleocapsid (N) proteins were chosen as antigens, because antibodies to the spike (S) protein of FIP virus (FIPV) are known to precipitate pathogenesis. However, vaccination by repeated injections of plasmids encoding these proteins did not protect kittens against challenge infection with FIPV. Also, a prime-boost protocol failed to afford protection, with priming using plasmid DNA and boosting using recombinant vaccinia viruses expressing the same coronavirus proteins. Because of the role of IL-12 in initiating cell-mediated immunity, the effects of co-delivery of plasmids encoding the feline cytokine were studied. Again, IL-12 did not meet expectations - on the contrary, it enhanced susceptibility to FIPV challenge. This study shows that DNA vaccination failed to protect cats against FIP and that IL-12 may yield adverse effects when used as a cytokine adjuvant.



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