Cytokines are co-administrated with vaccines or co-expressed in the vaccine virus genome to improve protective efficacy by stimulating immune responses. Using glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchoring by attachment to the target cytokine, we constructed recombinant Marek’s disease virus (MDV) vaccine strain 301B/1 (v301B/1-rtg-IL-15) that expresses chicken interleukin-15 (IL-15) as the membrane-bound form at the cell surface. We evaluated the vaccine efficacy of v301B/1-rtg-IL-15 given as a bivalent Marek’s disease (MD) vaccine in combination with turkey herpesvirus (HVT) against a very virulent plus MDV strain 648A challenge. The efficacy was compared with that of conventional bivalent MD vaccine, as a mixture with HVT plus parental v301B/1 or v301B/1-IL-15, which expresses a natural form of IL-15. The membrane-bound IL-15 expression did not interfere with the virus growth of recombinant v301B/1-rtg-IL-15. However, the MD incidence in birds vaccinated with v301B/1-rtg-IL-15 was higher than that of birds given the conventional bivalent MD vaccine containing parental v301B/1 virus, although the v301B/1-rtg-IL-15 vaccinated group showed increased natural killer cell activation at day 5 postvaccination, the same day as challenge. Overall, the protection of v301B/1-rtg-IL-15 was not improved from that of v301B/1 against very virulent plus MDV challenge.

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