Bluetongue virus (BTV) is endemic in many parts of the world, often causing severe hemorrhagic disease in livestock. To date, at least 27 different serotypes have been recognized. Vaccination against all serotypes is necessary to protect susceptible animals and to prevent onward spread of the virus by insect vectors. In our previous studies, we generated replication-deficient (disabled infectious single-cycle [DISC]) virus strains for a number of serotypes and reported preliminary data on their protective efficacy in animals. In this report, to advance the DISC vaccines to the marketplace, we investigated different parameters of these DISC vaccines. First, we demonstrated the genetic stabilities of these vaccine strains and also the complementing cell line. Subsequently, the optimal storage conditions of vaccines, including additives, temperature, and desiccation, were determined and their protective efficacies in animals confirmed. Furthermore, to test if mixtures of different vaccine strains could be tolerated, we tested cocktails of DISC vaccines in combinations of three or six different serotypes in sheep and cattle, the two natural hosts of BTV. Groups of sheep vaccinated with a cocktail of six different vaccines were completely protected from challenge with individual virulent serotypes, both in early challenge and after 5 months of challenge without any clinical disease. There was no interference in protection between the different vaccines. Protection was also achieved in cattle with a mixture of three vaccine strains, albeit at a lesser level than in sheep. Our data support and validate the suitability of these virus strains as the next-generation vaccines for BTV.
IMPORTANCE: Bluetongue (BT) is a debilitating and in many cases lethal disease that affects ruminants of economic importance. Classical vaccines that afford protection against bluetongue virus, the etiological agent, are not free from secondary and undesirable effects. A surge in new approaches to produce highly attenuated, safer vaccines was evident after the development of the BTV reverse-genetics system that allows the introduction of targeted mutations in the virus genome. We targeted an essential gene to develop disabled virus strains as vaccine candidates. The results presented in this report further substantiate our previous evidence and support the suitability of these virus strains as the next-generation BTV vaccines.