Equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) remains a frequent cause of upper respiratory tract infection and abortion in horses worldwide. However, little is known about the local antibody response elicited in the upper airways of horses following exposure to EHV-1. This study analysed the mucosal humoral immune response of weanling foals following experimental infection with virulent EHV-1, or vaccination with either of 2 commercial vaccines. Twenty weanlings were assigned to 5 groups and were inoculated with, or vaccinated against, EHV-1 following different regimens. Finally, all weanlings were simultaneously challenged intranasally with virulent EHV-1 Army 183 (A183). Nasal wash and serum samples were collected at regular intervals until 13 weeks after final challenge. Nasal washes were assayed for EHV-1-specific equine IgGa, IgGb, IgG(T), IgA, IgM and total virus-specific antibody using an indirect, quantitative ELISA. Total serum antibody responses were also monitored, and clinical signs of EHV-disease were recorded for each individual.
Virus-specific IgA dominated the mucosal antibody response elicited in weanlings inoculated with A183, being detectable at up to 3.1 μg/mg total IgA 13 weeks after challenge. Neither inactivated EHV-1 administered i.m., nor attenuated EHV-1 administered intranasally induced detectable mucosal antibodies. EHV-1-specific mucosal antibodies impeded EHV-1 plaque formation in vitro. Such virus-neutralising antibody probably contributes to a reduction of shedding of EHV-1 from the respiratory tract of virus-infected horses.