Dilution of Marek's disease (MD) vaccines is a common practice in the field to reduce the cost associated with vaccination. In this study we have evaluated the effect of diluting MD vaccines on the protection against MD, vaccine and challenge MD virus (MDV) kinetics, and body weight when challenged with strains Md5 (very virulent MDV) and 648A (very virulent plus MDV) by contact at day of age. The following four vaccination protocols were evaluated in meat-type chickens: turkey herpesvirus (HVT) at manufacturer-recommended full dose; HVT diluted 1∶10; HVT + SB-1 at the manufacturer-recommended full dose; and HVT + SB-1 diluted 1∶10 for HVT and 1∶5 for SB-1. Vaccine was administered at hatch subcutaneously. One-day-old chickens were placed in floor pens and housed together with ten 15-day-old chickens that had been previously inoculated with 500 PFU of either Md5 or 648A MDV strains. Chickens were individually identified with wing bands, and for each chicken samples of feather pulp and blood were collected at 1, 3, and 8 wk posthatch. Body weights were recorded at 8 wk for every chicken. Viral DNA load of wild-type MDV, SB-1, and HVT were evaluated by real time-PCR. Our results showed that dilution of MD vaccines can lead to reduced MD protection, reduced relative body weights, reduced vaccine DNA during the first 3 wk, and increased MDV DNA load. The detrimental effect of vaccine dilution was more evident in females than in males and was more evident when the challenge virus was 648A. However, lower relative body weights and higher MDV DNA load could be detected in chickens challenged with strain Md5, even in the absence of obvious differences in protection.

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