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In-shell vaccine for chick disease

5 January 2007

Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) causes losses of £23.6M a year to the UK poultry industry but scientists are now developing a new way to vaccinate chicks against the disease – one that can be delivered while they are still in their egg.

A pre-hatching prototype vaccine virus which provides immunity to IBV has been developed by scientists at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) and vaccine company Intervet UK. It can be delivered to chicks still in the egg (in-ovo) using robotic ‘vaccinators’.

IBV is the worst infectious disease in terms of economic loss to the UK poultry industry. Infection can lead to severe respiratory disease, dramatically reduce egg production and affect the quality and hatchability of eggs.

The researchers, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Intervet UK, used a ‘reverse genetic’ system to produce new vaccine strains. Existing strains, which are usually delivered by less efficient spray or drinking water dosage, can prevent chicks hatching if delivered in the egg.

The scientists have extracted a so-called spike protein from a pathogenic virus strain which triggers an immune response, and incorporated it into a harmless non-pathogenic strain. Dr Paul Britton, Head of the Coronavirus Group at IAH Compton, explained, “This hybrid virus was able to induce immunity when inoculated before hatching. When hatched chicks were exposed to the virulent M41 strain, we observed protection rates of up to 100 percent. With the UK poultry industry sustaining losses of £23.6M a year to infectious bronchitis virus we hope that our research could have a real impact on improving yields for UK farmers.”

“We are currently trying to modify the vaccine further, in collaboration with Intervet, to make it suitable for commercial use,” said Dr Britton.

Professor Julia Goodfellow, Chief Executive of BBSRC, said: “BBSRC research into endemic UK animal disease has the potential to save UK farmers and consumers millions of pounds each year. IBV is one of the severe animal diseases that BBSRC supports research into, and the work at the Institute for Animal Health shows real promise in delivering tangible improvements on the farm.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

This research project is also featured in the January 2007 edition of BBSRC Business magazine which will be published shortly. Business is the quarterly research highlights magazine of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

About the Institute for Animal Health

The Institute for Animal Health (IAH) is a world-leading centre of excellence for research into infectious diseases of livestock; integrating cutting-edge laboratory studies with targeted research in containment facilities that are unrivalled in the UK. The IAH houses national and international reference and surveillance laboratories and is located on three sites; Compton in Berkshire; Pirbright in Surrey; and the Neuropathogenesis Unit in Edinburgh.

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

External contact

Dr Paul Britton, Institute for Animal Health

Dave Cavanagh, Head of Communication, Institute for Animal Health

tel: 01635 577241

Contact

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382