A Virus-like Particle-Based F4 Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli Vaccine Is Inhibited by Maternally Derived Antibodies in Piglets but Generates Robust Responses in Sows

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F4-positive enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli is associated with diarrhea and poor growth outcomes in neonatal and newly weaned piglets and is thus a major economic and welfare burden in the swine industry. Vaccination of sows with F4 fimbriae protects against the neonatal disease via passive transfer of maternal immunity. However, this strategy does not protect against infection post-weaning. Consequently, prevention and treatment methods in weaner pigs heavily rely on the use of antimicrobials. Therefore, in order to reduce antimicrobial consumption, more effective prophylactic alternatives are needed. In this study, we describe the development of a capsid virus-like particle (cVLP)-based vaccine targeting the major F4 fimbriae subunit and adhesion molecule, FaeG, and evaluate its immunogenicity in mice, piglets, and sows. cVLP-display significantly increased systemic and mucosal antibody responses towards the recombinant FaeG antigen in mice models. However, in piglets, the presence of anti-F4 maternally derived antibodies severely inhibited the induction of active humoral responses towards the FaeG antigen. This inhibition could not be overcome, even with the enhanced immunogenicity achieved via cVLP display. However, in sows, intramuscular vaccination with the FaeG.cVLP vaccine was able to generate robust IgG and IgA responses that were comparable with a commercial fimbriae-based vaccine, and which were effectively transferred to piglets via colostrum intake. These results demonstrate that cVLP display has the potential to improve the systemic humoral responses elicited against low-immunogenic antigens in pigs; however, this effect is dependent on the use of antigens, which are not the targets of pre-existing maternal immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1388
Issue number12
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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© 2023 by the authors.

    Research areas

  • F4+ enterotoxigenic E. coli, FaeG, maternal antibody inhibition, post-weaning diarrhea, sow vaccination, Stb toxin, virus-like particle

ID: 379638538