A novel technique for retrospective genetic analysis of the response to vaccination or infection using cell-free DNA from archived sheep serum and plasma

Eve Hanks*, Helen Todd, Javier Palarea-Albaladejo, Tom N. McNeilly, Collette Britton, Keith T. Ballingall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Genetic variation is associated with differences in disease resistance and susceptibility among individuals within a population. To date, molecular genetic analyses of host responses have relied on extraction of genomic DNA from whole blood or tissue samples. However, such samples are not routinely collected during large-scale field studies. We demonstrate that cell-free genomic DNA (cfDNA) may be extracted and amplified from archived plasma samples, allowing retrospective analysis of host genetic diversity. This technique was also applicable to archived serum samples up to 35 years old and to different ruminant species. As proof of concept, we used this cfDNA approach to genotype the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II DRB1 locus of 224 Merino sheep which had participated in field trials of a commercial Haemonchus contortus vaccine, Barbervax®, in Australia. This identified a total of 51 different DRB1 alleles and their relative frequencies. This is the first study to examine host MHC diversity using DNA extracted from archived plasma samples, an approach that may be applied to retrospective analyses of genetic diversity and responses to vaccination or infection across different species and populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalVeterinary Research
Issue number1
Early online date5 Feb 2020
Publication statusFirst published - 5 Feb 2020


Cite this