Canadian Poultry Magazine

PIC Update: Enhancing Vaccine Efficacy

By PIC   

Features Business & Policy Farm Business

Enhancing vaccine efficacy

Novel immunostimulatory oligonucleotides (ODNs) show promise as tools for fighting disease

By Tim Nelson, Executive Director, and Kimberly Sheppard, Research Co-ordinator

Dr. Serguei Golovan (below, left) and Sergey Duvanov have discovered
that ODNs show promise as the basis for developing new, more effective
tools to fight disease.


One of the biggest problems facing the Canadian poultry industry is the loss of productivity due to disease. In-feed antibiotics have been used to maintain the health status of the birds. However, the recent worldwide trend of pathogens becoming more resistant to antibiotics and the consequent increasing consumer concerns are driving the investigation of alternative strategies to manage infectious diseases in poultry. Development of novel vaccine enhancers will enable increased vaccine potency, decreased dosage and toxicity, improvements in protection against common poultry pathogens and potentially decreased cost of vaccination and antibiotic use on Canadian farms.

Immune-stimulators are substances (drugs and nutrients) that stimulate the immune system by inducing activation or increasing its activity. Oligonucleotides (ODNs) are short sequences of nucleotides (RNA or DNA) that can be used alone, or as vaccine adjuvants (strengtheners). Immune-stimulating oligonucleotides (ODNs), have shown considerable potential against disease and infection in mice, humans and poultry. Three structurally different classes of synthetic immune-stimulating ODNs (A,B and C) that show distinct immune-stimulating profiles (what they affect and how), have recently been described in humans.

To see if they could match a particular immune response with specific pathogens in poultry, Dr. Serguei Golovan, together with his M.Sc. student Sergey Duvanov and collaborators Drs. Eva Nagy and Shayan Sharif, have been evaluating the immunostimulatory properties of different immune-stimulating ODNs in poultry. To ensure that selected ODNs would function in the poultry bloodstream, the three different immunostimulatory ODNs classes (A, B and C) were trialled using whole chicken blood. The ODNs were incubated in the blood, which was subsequently tested to evaluate the expression of immune genes.

Their findings? All three classes of ODNs were shown to be strong activators of an early stage of the immune response with each showing distinct immune-stimulating profiles. The researchers are also trying to improve delivery of ODNs to the immune cells, which will allow for decreased cost of vaccines. The results are very promising and will serve as a basis for the development of some new, more effective tools to fight disease. 

 To read more about this project visit: and click on “Research Results.”

The 2008 London Poultry Show (LPS) was good;, the mood was upbeat and
by all accounts the exhibitors and visitors all found it very
worthwhile. Thanks to everyone who participated.

The producer updates, now in their second year, were fairly well
attended and the feedback on the presentations positive in terms of
currency and style.

From left to right: PIC Staff Tim Nelson, Kimberly Sheppard and Annette Hartley at the LPS.

Energy costs ranked as a very high priority in our discussions about research and education needs with each of the sectors.

So straight off the pages of the Research Strategy comes a recommendation for producers to have a look at reducing energy costs by having an Energy Audit done on the farm. If you heard the speakers (Ron MacDonald and Mark Armstrong) at the London Poultry Show you already have some valuable tips up your sleeve for making a few changes around the farm to save on fuel, and we noticed a lot of people taking notes on the incentive packages currently on offer. If you couldn’t make it to the Show, it’s highly likely that your hydro supplier has an energy audit scheme running right now. It’s usually a free service and you’ll get some great tips on how to better insulate your buildings and therefore your business against increasing energy costs. If you’re not sure whom to contact, you can always contact PIC and we’ll point you in the right direction.


Dr. Lotta Berg gave us all food for thought, from the impact of phasing out cages in Sweden by 2012 to the host of reasons for euthanizing large numbers of poultry and the many methods that are being trialled. 

We’re all aware of the practical and cost implications for producers changing systems, but some of the side issues of “new entrants” and the problems (particularly disease)  that they brought with them because of their lack of management skills were really interesting. The predictable movement of cage-produced eggs from countries (in her case, Finland) to fill the void at the cheaper end of the market was not news and we will no doubt see a similar scenario in California if cages are phased out in that state post November 2008.

Al Dam gave an update on the way in which the industry is trying to reach this important sector. The kits for these guys will be available through OMAFRA in the next couple of weeks. If you have a small flock near you Al suggests taking a kit to the managers – it’s packed with good info and advice.

The OMAFRA team told us about some of the problems surfacing around the industry in relation to farm safety and how they’re being handled. For more information, contact Al Dam (email:


This year we have 41 high-quality project proposals submitted and in future editions we’ll be reporting on the successful applicants and how we’re investing in research and education for the industry.

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