Antigenic variability of Vibrio anguillarum serotype O2a: A hurdle for vaccine efficacy against vibriosis in Oncorhynchus mykiss

Dagoberto Sepúlveda*, Mie Johanne Hansen, Inger Dalsgaard, Jakob Skov, Niels Lorenzen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Despite vaccination, outbreaks of vibriosis still occur in sea-reared rainbow trout in Denmark. Vibriosis outbreaks are caused mainly by V. anguillarum serotypes O1 and O2a, and bacterins of both serotypes are included in the commonly used vaccine against this disease in Danish aquaculture. However, while the strains belonging to serotype O1 are genetically similar, the strains belonging to serotype O2a are highly diverse. This work aimed first at examining how the antibody response and protection induced by bacterin-based vaccines were affected by the antigenic variability within V. anguillarum serotype O2a strains. Following vaccination of rainbow trout with either a commercial or an experimental vaccine, specific antibody reactivity in serum from vaccinated fish was examined by ELISA against 23 strains of V. anguillarum serotype O2a (VaO2a). The strains were divided into 4 distinct subgroups according to the observed detection pattern. Seven strains were strongly recognized only by sera from fish vaccinated with the experimental vaccine (EV-I antisera), while 13 other strains were primarily recognized by sera from fish vaccinated with the commercial vaccine (CV antisera). Two strains were recognized by both EV-I and CV antisera, but with intermediate reactivity, while one strain was not recognized at all. A partly similar recognition pattern was observed when purified lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was used as antigen in the examination of antibody reactivity in Western blotting. The level of protection was highly dependent on both the vaccine and the strain used for challenge and showed no consistent correlation with antibody reactivity. Secondly, we attempted to use a bacterin vaccine based on one of the V. anguillarum O2a strains intermediately recognized by both EV-I and CV antisera to investigate whether that could potentially provide protection across strain variability. The immunized fish did mount a cross-reactive antibody response, but protection still varied depending on the strain used for challenge.

Interestingly, the grouping of strains according to antibody reactivity correlated not only with genotyping based on single nucleotides polymorphisms analysis (SNP) but also with variability in the accessory genome, indicating that presence or absence of protein antigens or proteins associated with the biosynthesis of antigenic epitopes may explain the observed distinct serological subgrouping within VaO2a strains by trout immune sera.

In terms of vaccination against VaO2a, our results demonstrate that it is important to take (local) antigen variations into account when using bacterin-based vaccines but also that alternatives to traditional bacterin-based vaccines might be needed to induce protection against the highly virulent Vibrio anguillarum serotype O2a strains.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFish and Shellfish Immunology
Pages (from-to)300-311
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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