The mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) can deteriorate vaccination efficacy against porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) at subtoxic levels
Background Feedgrain contamination with mycotoxins, including deoxynivalenol (DON, “vomitoxin”) is relatively frequently encountered. Pigs are particularly sensitive to the toxicity of DON. To assess the interplay between DON and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), we performed an experimental DON exposure–PRRSV vaccination–challenge infection trial. Three-week-old piglets were divided into four groups. Groups I, II and III (10 animals/group) were vaccinated with a PRRSV modified live vaccine and 2 weeks later challenged with a heterologous field strain. While group I was not supplemented with DON, animals in groups II and III received DON for 4 weeks prior to challenge infection at levels that can be encountered in pig feed, employing a low-dose or high-dose regime (group II: 40 µg DON/kg body weight per day; group III: 80 µg DON/kg body weight per day, corresponding to approx. 1 or 2 mg DON/kg feed, respectively). Eight animals (group IV; unvaccinated, not DON exposed) served as control animals for the challenge infection. Results We assessed clinical signs, virus load in serum and various organs as well as antibody titres in the animals. All vaccinated animals mounted an efficient PRRSV-specific antibody response within 2 weeks, except for 20% of the animals receiving the higher DON dose. Upon virus challenge, the vaccinated animals in group I were protected from clinical signs. Vaccinated DON-exposed animals in group II and III were protected from clinical signs to a lesser extent. Clinical signs in group III receiving the higher dose of DON were as severe as in the (unvaccinated, not DON exposed) control group IV. The animals of group III also displayed lower antibody titres compared with the animals in group I and II. Conclusions The experimental vaccination/challenge study therefore revealed that exposure of pigs to DON for a period of 4 weeks deteriorates the efficacy of vaccination against clinical signs of PRRS.