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Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) infection is the most common type of porcine postweaning colibacillosis (PWC). Among fimbriae of porcine ETEC strains the best studied family of fimbriae are the members of F4 adhesins, existing in at least three variants: ab, ac, ad. Active immunization against porcine PWC is difficult due to: i) ETEC strains are only one of the essential predisposing factors, ii) the success of vaccinal antigen uptake depends on the presence of enterocyte receptors for F4 adhesins, iii) the intestinal immune system may react with tolerance or hypersensitivity to the same antigens depending on the dose and form of the vaccinal immunogen, and iv) kinetics of the specific immune responses may be different in the case of F4 (earlier) and the other ETEC adhesins, particularly F18 (later). The aim of this study was to test the effectiveness of a live attenuated F4ac+ non-ETEC vaccine against porcine PWC by analyzing quantitative differences in the small intestinal lymphoid and myeloid cell subsets of immunized (with or without levamisole given as an adjuvant) vs control non-immunized pigs. Four week-old pigs were intragastrically immunized with a vaccine candidate F4ac+ non-ETEC strain 2407 at day 0, challenged 7 days later with a virulent F4ac+ strain ETEC 11-800/1/94, euthanatized at day 13 and sampled for immunohistology. Non-immunized pigs received saline at day 0 and were processed as the principals. Immuno-phenotypes of lymphoid and myeloid cell subsets were demonstrated within jejunal and ileal mucosa by immunohistochemical avidin-biotin complex method and corresponding morphometric data were analyzed using software program Lucia G for digital image analyses. Monoclonal antibodies reactive with surface molecules on porcine immune cells such as CD3, CD45RA, CD45RC, CD21 and SWC3 enabled clear insight into distribution patterns and amount of these cells within the gut-associated lymphoid tissues (GALT) examined. The numbers of jejunal and ileal cell subsets tested were significantly increased (at P<0.5 or lower) in both principal groups (vaccinated or levamisole primed-vaccinated) of pigs, compared to those recorded in the control non-vaccinated pigs. Based on the histomorphometric quantification of porcine intestinal immune cells from the GALT compartments tested, it is possible to differentiate the responses of pigs immunized by an experimental mucosal vaccine from those of non-immunized pigs.
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