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Objective—To determine whether passively acquired antibodies prevent development of a protective immune response to live virus in calves.

Procedures—18 calves.

Procedure—Calves were caught immediately after birth and tested free of bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) and serum antibodies against BVDV. Within 48 hours, 12 calves were fed colostrum that contained antibodies against BVDV and 6 calves received BVDV antibody free milk replacer. Three milk replacer fed and 6 colostrum fed calves were exposed to virulent BVDV2-1373 at 2 to 5 weeks of life when passively acquired serum antibody titers were high. After serum antibody titers against BVDV had decayed to undetectable concentrations (at 7 to 9 months of age), the 3 remaining milk replacer fed calves, 6 colostrum fed calves previously exposed to BVDV2-1373, and 6 colostrum fed calves that had not been exposed to the virus were inoculated with BVDV2-1373.

Results—Passively acquired antibodies prevented clinical disease in inoculated colostrum fed calves at 2 to 5 weeks of life. Serum antibody titers did not increase in these calves following virus inoculation, and serum antibody titers decayed at the same rate as in noninoculated colostrum fed calves. Inoculated colostrum fed calves were still protected from clinical disease after serum antibody titers had decayed to nondetectable concentrations. Same age colostrum fed calves that had not been previously exposed to the virus were not protected.

Conclusion and Clinical Relevance—A protective immune response was mounted in calves with passive immunity, but was not reflected by serum antibodies titers. This finding has implications for evaluating vaccine efficacy and immune status. (Am J Vet Res 2003;64:65–69)

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research