Appearance of serum antibodies against the avian influenza nonstructural 1 protein in experimentally infected chickens and turkeys.
In order to support eradication efforts of avian influenza (AI) infections in poultry, the implementation of "differentiation of infected from vaccinated animals" (DIVA) vaccination strategies has been recommended by international organizations. These systems enable the detection of field exposure in vaccinated flocks, and through this detection, infected flocks may be properly managed, thus interrupting the perpetuation of the infectious cycle. A promising system, based on the detection of antibodies to the nonstructural 1 (NS1) protein of AI, has been deemed a good candidate. However, there are presently no data available, in support of this DIVA system, with regard to the kinetics of antibody production against the NS1 proteins in poultry following infection. The present investigation was undertaken to establish the dynamics of the appearance of anti-NS1 antibodies in a naïve population. Following experimental infection of turkeys, antibodies to a peptide spanning the c-terminal of the NS1 protein were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) starting between day 3 and day 5 postinfection. In contrast, no antibodies to the NS1 peptide could be detected in chickens over the test period. In addition, the turkeys and chickens reacted differently at a clinical level to the infection by the H9N2 challenge virus. Taken together, these findings indicate that there is a significant difference in the viral replication in turkeys and chickens, resulting in a variation in the production of antibodies to NS1, as detected by the peptide-based ELISA used. This fact must be taken into consideration when using a DIVA system based on the identification of antibodies to the NS1 protein.