PRRS vaccine can overcome maternal immunity in newborn piglets

New research shows that vaccination of 1-day-old pigs with a porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) modified live attenuated virus vaccine is able to overcome maternal immunity
calendar icon 20 November 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

Authors Monica Balasch, Maria Fort, Lucas P Taylor and Jay G Calvert


The objective of the study was to evaluate the influence of maternally derived antibodies (MDA) on the efficacy of a PRRSV-1 based attenuated vaccine, when administered in 1 day-old piglets by the intramuscular route. The protective immunity of the modified live virus vaccine was evaluated in pigs born from seropositive sows, vaccinated at 1 day of age, upon inoculation with a PRRSV-1 isolate. The animals were challenged when the levels of MDAs detected by seroneutralisation test (SNT) in the non-vaccinated control group became undetectable (10 weeks after vaccination).


A protective effect of vaccination was observed since a significant reduction of viral load in serum compared to the control group was detected in all sampling days after challenge; efficacy was supported by the significant reduction of nasal and oral shedding as well as in rectal temperatures. Clinical signs were not expected after the inoculation of a PRRSV-1 subtype 1 challenge strain. However, the challenge virus was able to develop fever in 61% of the control pigs. Vaccination had a positive impact on rectal temperatures since the percentage of pigs that had fever at least once after challenge was reduced to 31% in vaccinated animals, and control pigs had significantly higher rectal temperatures than vaccinated pigs 3 days post-challenge. The lack of a vaccination effect in body weight gain was probably due to the short evaluation period after challenge (10 days). In the vaccinated group, 9/16 pigs (56%) experienced an increase in ELISA S/P ratio from the day of vaccination to 67 days post-vaccination. All vaccinated pigs were seropositive before challenge, indicating the development of an antibody response following vaccination even in the face of MDAs. In contrast to ELISA results, only 2/16 vaccinated pigs developed neutralizing antibodies detectable by a SNT that used a subtype 1 MA-104 adapted strain. Even in the absence of SN antibodies, vaccinated pigs were protected from challenge with a heterologous strain. The role of cell-mediated immunity should be considered, if protection was not mediated by SN antibodies only.


The efficacy of the attenuated PRRSV-1 vaccine in 1-day-old pigs seropositive to PRRSV prior to a PRRSV-1 challenge was demonstrated by improvement of clinical, virological and immunological variables. With the current experimental design, maternal immunity did not interfere with the development of a protective immune response against a PRRSV-1 challenge, after vaccination of 1 day-old pigs. Confirmation of these results under field conditions will be needed.

Monica Balasch, Maria Fort, Lucas P Taylor and Jay G Calvert (2018). Porcine Health Management, 4:25

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Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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