Effect of thiomersal on dissociation of intact (146S) foot-and-mouth disease virions into 12S particles as assessed by novel ELISAs specific for either 146S or 12S particles

Harmsen, M.M.; Fijten, H.P.D.; Westra, D.F.; Coco-Martin, J.M.


Intact (146S) foot-and-mouth disease virions (FMDVs) can dissociate into specific (12S) viral capsid degradation products. Using two single-domain antibody fragments that bind specifically to either 146S or 12S particles we developed two ELISAs for the quantification of these particles in FMDV antigen preparations used for vaccine manufacturing. Only O serotype strains are detected in the 146S specific ELISA whereas strains of most serotypes are detected in the 12S specific ELISA. However, the 146S concentration of A and Asia 1 serotype strains could be measured indirectly using the 12S specific ELISA by prior conversion of 146S into 12S particles by heat treatment. This allowed us to demonstrate that addition of the preservative thiomersal to FMDV antigens stimulates the dissociation into 12S particles of O, A and Asia 1 serotype strains upon prolonged storage at 4 °C. FMDV dissociation is known to result in a strongly reduced immunogenicity, which was experimentally confirmed here. Therefore, we recommend to omit thiomersal from FMD vaccines to increase its shelf life