The objective of this paper was to study the changes of some cytokines and neuroendocrine hormones in vaccinated and unvaccinated pigs that were naturally infected by a PRRSV-1 (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus) heterologous field strain. We analyzed gene expression of pro-inflammatory (TNF-α, IL-1β, MCP-1, IL-6), pro-immune (IFN-γ) and anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-10) in PBMC, as well as hormonal (GH and cortisol) levels in blood samples of pigs obtained in a field trial previously reported [Martelli P, Gozio S, Ferrari L, Rosina S, De Angelis E, Quintavalla C, et al. Efficacy of a modified-live porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) vaccine in pigs naturally exposed to a heterologous European (Italian cluster) field strain: clinical protection and cell-mediated immunity. Vaccine 2009;27:3788-99]. All vaccinated pigs showed an increase in pro-inflammatory and pro-immune cytokine gene expression with respect to controls and a prompt increase in GH that could be consistently associated with pro-inflammatory cytokines in sustaining innate immunity; moreover, the higher levels of cortisol indicates the activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis response. In contrast, unvaccinated pigs showed down-regulation of the cortisol and GH responses, and the pro-inflammatory and pro-immune cytokines remained at a basal or low level, with an increase of TNF-α and IL-6 in association with a higher level of IL-10 in the late phase of natural infection. The associated trends of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines together with the cortisol level demonstrate that a previous vaccination promotes an early immune responsiveness in pigs and a more efficient control of inflammation in the late phase of infection with a heterologous PRRSV isolate; both events could sustain clinical protection.
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