The mechanism of Marek's disease (MD) vaccination to prevent the lymphoproliferative disease in chickens is not well understood. It is generally recognized that vaccination prevents disease, including the induction of T-cell tumors, but it does not prevent the pathogenic virus from infecting and replicating in the vaccinated host, nor does it prevent bird to bird spread of the oncogenic virus. The stage at which the vaccinated immune system intervenes in the process from infection to the induction of tumors remains obscure. Using a transplantable tumor induced by the Md5 strain of MD virus (MDV), we show that CVI988 vaccination does not prevent the induction of transplantable tumors in the 15I5 × 71 chicken line. A monoclonal tumor with a V beta 1 T-cell receptor spectratype of 207 base pairs was used to follow the transplantable tumor in serial passages in vivo. This transplantable tumor could be passed in vaccinated birds. The length of time between vaccination and challenge (5 to 12 days) had little or no influence on the ability to transfer the tumor. There was variability in the manifestation of the disease produced by the transplanted tumor. Some chickens presented as normal but were still capable of transmitting the transplanted tumor to newly vaccinated recipients via their blood. This indicates that some chickens can control, but not eliminate, the tumor. The variables inducing health or disease in the challenged chickens remain obscure, but environmental or other factors likely depress the immune system allowing the tumor to overwhelm the immune system.

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