Marek’s disease virus (MDV) is an alphaherpesvirus that causes Marek’s disease, a malignant lymphoproliferative disease of domestic chickens. While MDV vaccines protect animals from clinical disease, they do not provide sterilizing immunity and allow field strains to circulate and evolve in vaccinated flocks. Therefore, there is a need for improved vaccines and for a better understanding of innate and adaptive immune responses against MDV infections. Interferons (IFNs) play important roles in the innate immune defenses against viruses and induce upregulation of a cellular antiviral state. In this report, we quantified the potent antiviral effect of IFNα and IFNγ against MDV infections in vitro. Moreover, we demonstrate that both cytokines can delay Marek’s disease onset and progression in vivo. Additionally, blocking of endogenous IFNα using a specific monoclonal antibody, in turn, accelerated disease. In summary, our data reveal the effects of IFNα and IFNγ on MDV infection and improve our understanding of innate immune responses against this oncogenic virus.
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