Characterization of C-strain "Riems" TAV-epitope excape variants obtained through selective antibody pressure in cell culture
Classical swine fever virus (CSFV) C-strain "Riems" escape variants generated under selective antibody pressure with monoclonal antibodies and a peptide-specific antiserum in cell culture were investigated. Candidates with up to three amino acid exchanges in the immunodominant and highly conserved linear TAV-epitope of the E2-glycoprotein and additional mutations in the envelope proteins ERNS and E1 were characterized both in vitro and in vivo. It was further demonstrated, that intramuscular immunization of weaner pigs with variants selected after a series of passages elicited full protection against lethal CSFV challenge infection. These novel CSFV C-strain variants with exchanges in the TAV-epitope present potential marker vaccine candidates. The DIVA (differentiating infected from vaccinated animals) principle was tested for those variants using commercially available E2 antibody detection ELISA. Moreover, direct virus differentiation is possible using a real-time RT-PCR system specific for the new C-strain virus escape variants or using differential immunofluorescence staining.