Host responses are induced in feathers of chickens infected with Marek's disease virus
ABSTRACT Control measures are ineffective in curtailing Marek's disease virus (MDV) infection and replication in the feather follicle epithelium (FFE). Therefore, vaccinated birds which subsequently become infected with MDV, shed the virulent virus although they remain protected against disease. The present study investigated host responses generated against MDV infection in the feather. We observed that in parallel with an increase in viral genome load and viral replication in the feather, there was a gradual but progressive increase in infiltration of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells into the feather pulp of MDV-infected chickens, starting on day 4 and peaking by day 10 post-infection. Concomitant with infiltration of T cells, the expression of interleukin (IL)-18, IL-6, interferon (IFN)-γ and major histocompatibility complex class I genes was significantly enhanced in the feather pulp of MDV-infected chickens. The finding that host responses are generated in the feather may be exploited for developing strategies to control MDV infection in the FFE, thus preventing horizontal virus transmission.