Impaired T cell responses in domestic pigs and wild boar upon infection with a highly virulent African swine fever virus strain
Since African swine fever (ASF) first appeared in the Caucasus region in 2007, it has spread rapidly and is now present in numerous European and Asian countries. In Europe, mainly wild boar populations are affected and pose a risk for domestic pigs. In Asia, domestic pigs are almost exclusively affected. An effective and safe vaccine is not available, and correlates of protection are far from being understood. Therefore, research on immune responses, immune dysfunction, and pathogenesis is mandatory. It is acknowledged that T cells play a pivotal role. Thus, we investigated T cell responses of domestic pigs and wild boar upon infection with the highly virulent ASF virus (ASFV) strain “Armenia08”. For this purpose, we used a flow cytometry‐based multicolor analysis to identify T cell subtypes (cytotoxic T cells, T‐helper cells, γʂ T cells) and their functional impairment in ASFV infected pigs. Domestic pigs showed lymphopenia and neither in the blood nor in the lymphoid organs was a proliferation of CD8+ effector cells observed. Furthermore, a T‐bet‐dependent activation of the remaining CD8 T cells did not occur. In contrast, a T cell response could be observed in wild boar at 5 days post inoculation in the blood and in tendency also in some organs. However, this cytotoxic response was not beneficial as all wild boars showed a severe acute lethal disease and a higher proportion died spontaneously or was euthanized at the humane endpoint.