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New poultry vaccine has potential for mass vaccinationNew poultry vaccine has potential for mass vaccination

Vaccine may potentially be administered through water or into embryonated eggs, making it easier for poultry producers to vaccinate flocks.

January 7, 2016

4 Min Read
New poultry vaccine has potential for mass vaccination

A team of researchers at Kansas State University, in collaboration with Garcia-Sastre of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has developed a vaccine that protects poultry from multiple strains of avian influenza found in the U.S., including H5N1, H5N2 and H5N8.

The vaccine has the potential to be administered through water or into embryonated eggs, making it easier for poultry producers to vaccinate flocks.

The vaccine, called NDV-H5Nx, protects chickens and likely other poultry against the three recently introduced U.S. avian influenza strains H5N1, H5N2 and H5N8, as well as against Newcastle disease virus (NDV), which naturally affects poultry.


Avian influenza killed millions of chickens and turkeys in the U.S. in the spring and summer of 2015, leading to billions in lost revenue for the U.S. poultry industry.

The NDV-H5Nx vaccine also has the potential to be administered to millions of birds at a time through water, said Jurgen Richt, Regents distinguished professor of veterinary medicine, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Center of Excellence for Emerging & Zoonotic Animal Diseases at Kansas State University and one of the researchers involved in the discovery.

"The vaccine we produced is a live vaccine, which means it replicates in birds," Richt said. "Because it's live, we believe that the vaccine could be sprayed into the air or put in the water supply so that when the chickens need a drink, they could be vaccinated. A poultry farm could vaccinate all of its birds in a single day because all living creatures need water to live."


The vaccine also has the potential to be administered to developing chicks in eggs, resulting in offspring being automatically vaccinated for the diseases, said Wenjun Ma, Kansas State assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology and another of the researchers involved.

The H5 vaccines currently on the market require that each chicken be injected by hand. Many poultry operations have millions of birds, and it would take many hours to vaccinate every chicken, Richt said.

Additionally, the NDV-H5Nx vaccine has the ability to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals (DIVA), which is critical for the U.S. poultry industry because it provides evidence to trade partners that birds have been vaccinated and are free of H5, Richt said.

Researchers developed the NDV-H5Nx vaccine with a recombinant virus technique similar to the one used to make NDV-H5N1 and NDV-H7N9 vaccines in 2015. The extracellular domain of the H5 or H7 protein of the respective avian influenza viruses was transplanted into NDV vaccine strain LaSota in order to make the vaccine constructs.

The three H5Nx strains are genetically similar but cause different disease severity in birds. The H5N2 strain is the most prominent in the U.S. and is also the deadliest. The original H5N8 avian influenza strain was found first in South Korea in 2014 and subsequently in other Asian countries, including China and Japan, before spreading to Europe. It came to North America as H5N8 and then mixed with other avian influenza viruses in the U.S. and Canada to form H5N2 and H5N1, Ma said.

"The H5 avian influenza strains affect poultry worldwide and have a 100% mortality rate in chickens within six days," Ma said.

Kansas State researchers developed and tested the NDV-H5Nx vaccine against H5N2, the deadliest strain, in the course of three months. The rapid vaccine development — which included vaccine production, H5Nx animal model development and efficacy testing — is a testament to Kansas State University's ability to quickly respond to emerging foreign animal diseases, Richt said.

"This was very much a team project and something that we couldn't have done in this time frame if it wasn't for teamwork," Richt said. "For diseases, it's critical to have a multidisciplinary approach. Kansas State University has the expertise, resources and environment necessary to do this work and make this multidisciplinary approach work."

Richt and Ma presented the project and the proof-of-concept vaccination methods at a recent meeting of stakeholders and leaders in the U.S. agriculture industry, including the chicken and turkey industries, who will be helpful in the further development and adoption of the NDV-H5Nx vaccine. Researchers are currently preparing to publish their findings in a scientific journal.

The project was funded through the National Bio & Agro-defense Facility's (NBAF) research project transitional funds and Avimex. NBAF, under construction adjacent to Kansas State University's Manhattan, Kan., campus, will be the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's foremost animal disease research facility and will study high-consequence animal diseases that affect the nation's agriculture and biosecurity.

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