To identify protective equine rotavirus group A (ERVA) VP8 epitopes and demonstrate that immunizing hens with synthetic peptides based on these epitopes would yield high-titered, neutralizing egg yolk antibodies for potential application in foals.
26 rotavirus-positive, client-owned foals were included in the study. Five white leghorn hens were used for antibody production.
Chicken antibodies were raised against 3 synthetic epitope peptides from the VP8 protein of the common ERVA P-type, P4 using CD40-targeted streptavidin-peptide complexes. Antipeptide serum- and egg yolk antibodies were subject to ELISA and in vitro virus neutralization assays to evaluate binding and neutralization activities. Lyophilized anti-VP8 egg yolk antibodies were orally administered (30 g; q 24 h for 5 days) to foals with rotaviral diarrhea. Physical examinations were performed daily. The duration of diarrhea and any adverse effects were recorded.
CD40-targeted vaccination of hens generated high titers of anti-VP8 serum and egg yolk antibodies after just 3 immunizations. These antibodies prevented in vitro infection of ERVA with titers of 128 in the serum and 94.5 in the yolk. Oral administration (30 g; q 24 h for 5 days) of lyophilized hyperimmune egg yolk to foals with rotaviral diarrhea did not reveal any adverse effects of the treatment.
This study demonstrated that antibodies raised against neutralizing epitopes of the ERVA VP8 protein could prevent ERVA infection in vitro. Based on these results and previous work in other animals, in vivo evaluation of the therapeutic efficacy of anti-VP8 egg yolk antibodies is warranted.