The Journal of general virology 2016 6 09() doi 10.1099/jgv.0.000521
Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) is a highly contagious respiratory disease of chickens caused by infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV). The disease is controlled by the use of live-attenuated vaccines. Previously we reported the complete nucleotide sequence of the ILTV vaccine strain (TCO) and identified a nonsense mutation in the gene encoding the ORF C protein. This suggested that ORF C protein might be associated with viral virulence. To investigate this, an ILTV recombinant with a deletion in the gene encoding ORF C was constructed using the genome of the virulent USDA challenge strain (USDAch). Compared to the parental virus, the ΔORF C recombinant replicated in chicken kidney (CK) cells with similar kinetics and generated similar titers. This demonstrated that the ORF C deletion had no deleterious effects on replication efficacy in vitro. In chickens, the recombinant induced only minor microscopic tracheal lesions when inoculated via the intra-tracheal/ocular route, while the parental strain induced moderate to severe microscopic tracheal lesions, even though virus load in the tracheas were comparable. Groups of chickens vaccinated via eye-drop with the ∆ ORFC-ILTV were protected to levels comparable to those elicited by TCO vaccination. To our knowledge, this is the first report that demonstrates the suitability of ∆ORFC as a live-attenuated vaccine to prevent the losses caused by ILTV.