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Langenmayer, Martin C.; Luelf-Averhoff, Anna-Theresa; Adam-Neumair, Silvia; Sutter, Gerd; Volz, Asisa (2018): Tracking Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara in the Chicken Embryo: In Vivo Tropism and Pathogenesis of Egg Infections. In: Viruses-Basel, Vol. 10, No. 9, 452


The Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) is a highly attenuated vaccinia virus serving as a promising vector vaccine platform to develop vaccines against infectious diseases. In contrast to the well-established replication deficiency and safety of MVA in mammals, much less is known about MVA infection in avian hosts. Here, we used a recombinant MVA expressing fluorescent reporter proteins under transcriptional control of specific viral early and late promoters to study in vivo tropism, distribution, and pathogenesis of MVA infections in embryonated chicken eggs. The chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) of embryonated chicken eggs was inoculated with recombinant MVA, MVA or phosphate-buffered saline. The infection was analyzed by fluorescence microscopy, histology, immunohistochemistry, and virus titration of embryonic tissues. After infection of the CAM, MVA spread to internal and external embryonic tissues with the liver as a major target organ. Macrophages and hematopoietic cells were identified as primary target cells of MVA infection and may be involved in virus spread. Increasing doses of MVA did not result in increased lesion severity or embryonic death. Despite MVA generalization to embryonic tissues, the CAM seems to be the major site of MVA replication. The absence of considerable organ lesions and MVA-associated mortality highlights an excellent safety profile of MVA in chicken hosts.