Health
June 9, 2017, Vancouver, B.C. - A&W Canada has announced that it will support the University of Saskatchewan to expand an important research project that will examine lighting enhancements and related health and welfare outcomes for broiler chickens.

The project's broader research focus is to determine lighting effects on the mobility, behavior and physiological welfare of poultry by measuring the impact of the various wavelengths of barn lighting.

A&W is providing $45,000 in funding to the University of Saskatchewan's Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner to expand the data collection on the impacts of energy efficient LED lighting on broiler chicken welfare and production this fall.

They will examine the differences LED lights make on poultry behavior, welfare and health outcomes. Incandescent lighting has been phased out and much less is known about the welfare and behavioral impacts of LED lighting.

"Through our research, we are always looking for ways to improve food quality and production while maintaining high animal care and welfare standards. Partnerships in research like this allow us to find the sustainable caring solutions we need to feed a growing world," says Mary Buhr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources.

Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner is a global leader in poultry barn lighting. Her work is internationally cited and has helped to establish international standards of practice for lighting.

She served as the Chair of the Scientific Committee for the Canadian Poultry Code of Practice, as well as being a member of the Poultry Code Development Committee through the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). NFACC's Code of Practice development process ensures credibility through scientific rigor, stakeholder collaboration and a consistent approach.

"At A&W we are constantly impressed with the leadership work Karen Schwean-Lardner and the University of Saskatchewan are doing in poultry welfare. We are proud to make a financial contribution to this research to allow the research team to further their understanding of LED barn lighting," says Trish Sahlstrom, Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, A&W Canada.

Dr. Schwean-Lardner says, "The University of Saskatchewan is committed to research that will continue to reinforce Canada's leadership in poultry welfare. Partners like A&W share a commitment to new research that can contribute to the development of new best practices."
May 23, 2017, Guelph, Ont. - A team of investigators from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Guelph, Ontario, has discovered a gene that confers resistance to the important broad-spectrum antibiotic, fosfomycin.

The researchers found the gene in isolates of the pathogen, Salmonella enterica, from broiler chickens. The research is published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

The gene, dubbed fosA7, confers a high level of resistance to fosfomycin, which is otherwise a safe and effective agent for eliminating infections caused by multidrug resistant bacteria. (The "7" in fosA7 indicates that this is the seventh antibiotic resistant fosA gene that has been discovered.)

Currently, there is only limited fosfomycin resistance among Salmonella species, said corresponding author Moussa S. Diarra, PhD, Research Scientist in Food Safety at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. But the powerful resistance the fosA7 gene confers is worrisome, said Diarra. It could spread among different Salmonella serovars (a serovar is a strain of a species), as well as other bacterial pathogen species, via horizontal gene transfer, due to increased use of fosfomycin in both clinical and veterinary settings, said Diarra.

Thus, "vigilant monitoring for the spread of fosfomycin resistance in bacteria, isolated from humans and animals, is needed."

With that in mind, the researchers tested the strength of the resistance the gene could confer on the closely related Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis.

To do so, they cloned the gene, and inserted it into the chromosome of non-antibiotic resistant S. Enteriditis. Their worries were confirmed: the gene boosted the minimum concentration of fosfomycin required to inhibit reproduction in the microbe by more than 256-fold.

These results provided strong support for the hypothesis that fosA7 is, indeed, responsible for fosfomycin resistance, and that if fosA7 were transferred to plasmids--renegade pieces of DNA that can insert themselves into different bacteria--it could induce a high level of resistance in the recipient bacterial strain, according to the report.

The product of the fosA7 gene is an enzyme called glutathione-S-transferase. It inactivates fosfomycin by binding to it, and rupturing a molecular ring structure which is part of the antibiotic.

Fosfomycin resistance genes are often present in multidrug resistant bacteria. "This could further challenge the use of fosfomycin as an alternative treatment approach against urinary tract infections caused by both multidrug resistant E. coli, and blood infections from multidrug resistant Salmonella," said Diarra. So far, the investigators have found fosA7 only on S. enterica serovar Heidelberg and three other serovars of this species. A serovar is a strain of a species.

Salmonella enterica serovar Heidelberg--the strain in which the researchers found fosA7--is among the most common causes of human salmonellosis worldwide.

The rise of resistance to multiple antibiotics, particularly to extended spectrum cephalosporins in Heidelberg has limited the number of therapeutic options against this Salmonella serovar. In the current study, the investigators found this resistance gene in all of 15 Salmonella Heidelberg isolates in their collection.
May 16, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) starts the initial steps to develop a tool set to provide veterinarians with guidelines to support responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial medications in animals during a planning workshop in Ottawa, Ontario from May 9 and 10, 2017.

“The veterinary community has a professional responsibility to support Canada's overarching strategy on antimicrobial resistance and use, and to adopt a multidimensional approach towards antimicrobial stewardship,” says Dr. Troy Bourque, CVMA President. “We are excited to embark on this project to meet veterinary needs for critical information, oversight and decision-support related to prudent antimicrobial use (AMU) in animals.”

Participating in the workshop are Canadian veterinarians, veterinary researchers and educators, government officials and species-group stakeholders working in the areas of swine, poultry, beef, dairy, small ruminants and companion animals.

They are working together to help identify AMU stewardship issues of concern, anticipate content and format needs for veterinary practitioners, address existing information gaps and discuss ways to communicate and engage the new tool set.

The overall outcome of the project is to develop guidelines for prudent AMU across the six species groups and pilot a prototype tool set to review effectiveness and guide further improvements.

“Ultimately, we want to promote enhanced antimicrobial stewardship to slow or limit the rising trend of AMR,” says Dr. Phil Buote, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group involved in the project, as well as Deputy Registrar for the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association.

“Providing these guidelines and tools to veterinarians is intended to influence their prescribing behaviours and enhance communication with producers and industry on the science-based rationale for antimicrobial use. The goal is to promote stewardship and maintain access to effective medically important antimicrobials.”

The CVMA is building on past achievements with its specific-usage Antimicrobial Prudent Use Guidelines for Beef Cattle, Dairy Cattle, Poultry and Swine (2008), and small animal guidelines through an Antimicrobial SmartVet application for urinary tract infections.

Funding for the project is provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada via their AgriMarketing Program supplemented with in-kind contributions by partners including the CVMA and veterinarians.
April 24, 2017, Tucker, GA – The U.S. Poultry Foundation announced the completion of a funded research project at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, in which researchers report a potential cause of wooden breast lesion in broilers. The “woody breast” condition has long confused producers and processors, and research has been ongoing to find an explanation for the condition.

The research project is part of the Association’s comprehensive research program encompassing all phases of poultry and egg production and processing.

Dr. Benham Abasht and colleagues at the Univ. of Delaware found that the early lesions of the condition could be found in the breast tissue of one-week old broilers, and the first stage of the condition involves inflammation of the veins in the breast tissue and accumulation of lipid around the affected veins. The study went onto say that this condition was followed over time by muscle cell death and replacement by fibrous and fatty tissue. Genetic analyses also indicated that there was dysfunction in lipid metabolism in affected birds. This new understanding that inflammation of veins is the likely cause of wooden breast lesions in broilers will provide important direction for future research on this condition. READ MORE 
February 17, 2017 – Biomin welcomed 145 delegates from 23 countries representing the feed and poultry sectors over several days in mid-February in order to address how to solve the antibiotic-free production puzzle.

With the subheading of “Guidelines for a responsible use of antibiotics in the modern broiler production,” the event afforded participants the opportunity to consider a host of different viewpoints.

Expert speakers explored the role of genetics, nutrition, biosecurity and farm management.

Highly interactive exchanges throughout the event converged on the idea that a holistic approach is the way forward in reducing antibiotics while maintaining high performing flocks.
A recent donation to the University of Guelph’s (UofG) Poultry Health Research Network (PHRN) will further enhance research and outreach opportunities connected to this hub of poultry research excellence.

UofG alumni Vic Parks and his wife, Uta, have generously donated almost $40,000 to be used in the area of most need for the PHRN.

“The generous gift by the Parks family will have an immense impact on the PHRN,” says Shayan Sharif, an immunologist in the Ontario Veterinary College’s department of pathobiology and leader of the PHRN. “This gift will afford PHRN the opportunity to serve its stakeholders, including industry, government and academia, more effectively through enhanced learning opportunities, research activities and knowledge mobilization.”

The Parks have a strong family history with the University of Guelph and particularly the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).

Vic Parks graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College with his DVM in 1964 and both the Parks’ daughters are also OVC grads. Both Mrs. Parks and their son, Jason, graduated from OAC’s School of Landscape Architecture.

With their daughters’ close ties to poultry health and welfare, “it seemed a good fit to provide this most recent donation to support poultry research at OVC,” says Vic, who began his career in large animal practice, before moving into companion animal medicine. He worked in marketing with Novartis Animal Health in Mississauga for 20 years before his retirement in 2006. During this time the Parks also had a farm near Guelph where they raised Limousin cattle.

The Parks fell in love with Salt Spring Island on a trip to British Columbia more than 30 years ago and now live there, near Mount Maxwell Provincial Park.

In addition to their donation to the PHRN, the Parks previously established an endowed Parks Family Travel Grant in OAC, as well as an endowed Parks Family Travel Grant in OVC. The latter is presented annually to a fourth-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student entering the Food Animal Stream for assistance travelling outside of Ontario on an external rotation.
The CPRC 2015 funding process approved projects that addressed several poultry industry priorities.  A major industry priority is improving the immune system, and two projects that specifically address this in poultry have recently acquired all necessary funding in addition to CPRC funding.  These projects are now currently under active research. 

Activation of innate immunity
The emergence and spread of resistant bacteria are rendering current antibiotics less useful.  Furthermore, the controversial practice of prophylactic use of antibiotics encourages the emergence of antibiotic-resistant microbes.  Therefore there is a need for the development of novel alternative strategies to antimicrobials for infectious disease control.

CPRC has recently funded a project that will investigate an innate immune-based method of disease protection as an alternative strategy to antimicrobial use.  During initial exposure to pathogens, birds are reliant on their innate immunity for protection against infection.  Innate immune responses are not pathogen-specific but are activated by features/patterns characteristic of pathogens.  The innate immune system is capable of limiting a variety of infections once activated.  Although the innate immune system of chickens is developed at hatch, it is not activated; therefore, microbial agents (particularly bacterial pathogens) can infect chicks at the time of placement in the barn.

Professor Susantha Gomis, from the University of Saskatchewan has studied the effects of a pattern characteristic of bacterial DNA, known as CPG-motifs to induce or activate the innate immunity.  Research has shown that synthetically generated CPG-motifs or ‘CpG-ODN’ as an immune system stimulant is capable of protecting neonatal chickens against specific bacterial infections.  Results obtained to date show that intranasal delivery of CpG-ODN is advantageous to in ovo delivery as innate immune stimulation coincides with the first week of the birds’ life, which is the most vulnerable period for bacterial infections.  Dr. Gomis’s current research will develop an effective method of intra-nasal delivery of CpG-ODN at hatch.  The research approach will be to initially develop a CpG-ODN delivery prototype for intranasal delivery of the CpG-ODN to neonatal chicks followed by field efficacy and safety trials.

This research is also funded by NSERC, Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan, (Saskatchewan Chicken Industry Development Fund), Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd., Western Economic Diversification Canada, Sunrise Poultry Hatchery, BC and Prairie Pride Natural Foods Ltd., SK.

Activation of adaptive immunity
Respiratory viruses have a negative impact on the poultry industry.  Although vaccination against respiratory viruses is used to control these common viral diseases, “vaccine failures” remain common. 

CPRC has recently funded a project that will investigate the use of innate immune stimulants to induce adaptive immunity against respiratory viruses.  Adaptive immune responses are pathogen-specific and recognition of the pathogen results in both antibody-related and cell-mediated immunity.  Adaptive immune responses are slow to develop and may take up to a week before the responses are effective. 

Associate Professor Faizal Careem, from the University of Calgary, has studied the effects of synthetic Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs) in activation of innate immune responses.  Research has shown that these PAMPs are effective in reducing the impact of a number of avian bacteria and viruses.  PAMPS are also a known to increase the immune response of experimental vaccines when incorporated with these vaccines as ‘immune response enhancers’.

Dr. Careem, will investigate the role of innate immune stimulants in the induction of adaptive immunity to respiratory viruses.  Results obtained in his prior research have demonstrated that in ovo delivered PAMPs can reduce a specific viral load in the respiratory tract of embryos and neonatal chicks.  in ovo delivered PAMPs also increases innate immune cell responses in neonatal chicks.  These responses have been shown to promote the development of adaptive immune responses in mammals.  Overall, this study will determine the efficacy and mechanism of in ovo delivered PAMPs in inducing pathogen specific adaptive immune responses against respiratory viruses.  The approach is centralized on stimulation of the innate immunity to reduce the viral replication at the site of entry allowing birds to acquire adaptive immunity.

This research is also funded by NSERC and Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd.

CPRC, its Board of Directors and member organizations are committed to supporting and enhancing Canada’s poultry sector through research and related activities.  For more details on these or any other CPRC activities, please contact the Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, Ontario, K1R 7S8, tel: (613) 566-5916, e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit us at www.cp-rc.ca.

 

When it comes to developing a vaccine in response to emerging diseases that threaten the lives of animals, a pharmaceutical company needs to move quickly.

What it comes down to is being “first to know” and “fast to market”, said Dr. Raja Krishnan, formerly senior director of Swine and Poultry Research and Development for Zoetis and now of companion animal and equine biological research. Speaking to the Poultry Industry Council Health Day in Stratford, Ont., Krishnan put a global perspective on some of the corporate thought processes that precede his company’s decision to develop a vaccine.

Use of surveillance
“The world is becoming a smaller village,” said Krishnan. Zoetis, a leading pharmaceutical company with 10,000 employees in 120 countries, has access to global surveillance networks that use targeted regional surveillance to help guide rapid, high quality product development.

As an example, Krishnan called Avian Influenza (AI) a “disease that is travelling around the world, creating headaches.” With that kind of migration, how do we become proactive? How do we get ahead of the next round of disease? “It’s a decision that can’t wait,” said Krishnan. “Seasons change whether we’re ready or not,” leaving the company to do the right thing for their customers and the entire industry, sometimes making those decisions in a matter of minutes.

Questions, questions
The AI outbreak affected over 48 million birds between December 2014 and June 2015. A lot of questions swirled around the decision to develop a vaccine; the disease was moving quickly. Did the industry want a vaccine? Would they use it? Would the government endorse it? Would the USDA recommend culling or vaccinating? Even if a product were developed, would it be relevant? Does it make sense?

Adding to this uncertainty is the fact that AI doesn’t play by the rules. The virus can mutate rapidly, meaning that the vaccine needs to be changed frequently. That’s one of the challenges. “AI constantly surprises us,” said Krishnan. “Nothing beats preparedness but we may have to course-correct collectively.”

When asked about the drivers behind the U.S. poultry industry deciding to use or not use the AI vaccine, Krishnan listed several of the questions such as, when will the product be available? Is there a risk of AI going into broilers as we go into the winter? Will this pressure us to act?

Political aspects
“Let’s not underestimate the economic and trade implications,” said Krishnan, what he called “the political aspects.” Will use of a vaccine result in trade restrictions? How does the issue get played out in the news? How does the consumer view the issue? What will the government do? How will pressure from retailers like Walmart affect vaccine use? He described the vaccination issue as “a jigsaw puzzle with so many uncertain parameters.”

Under a similar disease challenge in April 2013, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) was identified in the United States; by September 2014, conditional vaccine licenses were being issued in the U.S. Everything happened rapidly, said Krishnan, fuelled by a commitment to U.S. pork producers and the veterinarians who support them to help contain an outbreak in 30 states that was responsible for the deaths of more than seven million piglets in the U.S..

What if their company goes down the wrong path? Krishnan admitted that sometimes a vaccine works in a test tube but falls apart in the real world; sometimes a disease doesn’t cause a problem, in which case the resources will be pulled back and re-invested.

With AI, are we headed in the right direction? Is it easier to cull the birds, clean up and move on? “That’s the million dollar question,” answered Krishnan. Thirty years from now we’ll have stories to tell.

 

January 18, 2016 -  The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the pathogenicity of eight of the nine H7N8 avian influenza detections announced on January 16. The turkey flocks have been confirmed as low pathogenic avian influenza, with additional testing ongoing for the ninth flock.

These January 16 detections were identified as part of surveillance testing in the control area surrounding the initial highly pathogenic H7N8 avian influenza (HPAI) case in that state, identified on January 15.

“It appears that there was a low pathogenic virus circulating in the poultry population in this area, and that virus likely mutated into a highly pathogenic virus in one flock,” said Dr. John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinarian. “Through cooperative industry, state and federal efforts, we were able to quickly identify and isolate the highly pathogenic case, and depopulate that flock.  Together, we are also working to stop further spread of the LPAI virus, and will continue aggressive testing on additional premises within the expanded control area to ensure any additional cases of either HPAI or LPAI are identified and controlled quickly.”

APHIS continues to work closely with the Indiana State Board of Animal Health and the affected poultry industry on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the additional affected premises and depopulation of birds has already begun. Depopulation prevents the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system.

No human infections associated with avian influenza A viruses of this particular subtype (i.e., H7N8) have ever been reported. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI.

As part of existing avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners continue to work on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area.  No new presumptive cases have been identified since January 16.

The rapid testing and response in this incident is the result of months of planning with local, state, federal and industry partners to ensure the most efficient and effective coordination. Since the previous HPAI detections in 2015, APHIS and its state and industry partners have learned valuable lessons to help implement stronger preparedness and response capabilities. In September, APHIS published a HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan that captures the results of this planning effort, organizing information on preparatory activities, policy decisions and updated strategy documents.

 

Despite routine utilization of standard vaccination protocols in broiler breeder and broiler flocks, outbreaks of diseases in broiler flocks still occur.  However, limited data on pathogen prevalence and associated risk factors among commercial broiler flocks in Canada are available.

Dr. Michele Guerin, a Poultry Epidemiologist from the University of Guelph recently completed a comprehensive project that investigated the prevalence of nine viruses * and four bacteria of health significance for the Ontario broiler industry.  The study included the associations of exposure to the pathogens with management and biosecurity practices, flock mortality, and condemnations.  

“As a contribution to disease control initiatives, this study will enable producers to adopt better strategies to reduce the incidence of these pathogens within their flocks,” said Dr. Guerin in an interview.

Pathogen exposure
Guerin’s team investigated 231 randomly selected Ontario broiler flocks and results showed frequent exposure to AAAV, ARV, CAV, pathogenic FAdV species, IBDV, Clostridium perfringens, and Enterococcus cecorum, and no exposure to, or low prevalence of, AEV, IBV, ILTV, NDV, Brachyspira spp., and Clostridium difficile.

Beyond prevalence, the genotypes of several of these pathogens were determined.

“Potentially pathogenic genotypes of FAdV, IBDV, and IBV were identified that can guide vaccine development and disease control efforts in Ontario,” she explains.

Although no specific management or biosecurity practice was identified as a predictor of all pathogens investigated, several factors were significantly associated with the prevalence of more than one pathogen (e.g. feed, barn and environmental conditions, hatchery, manure disposal, and antimicrobial use).

“Geographic and seasonal variation in the prevalence of a number of pathogens was evident,” Dr. Guerin indicated. “However no one district or season stood out as being a hot-spot or time period of high prevalence for all pathogens investigated.”

Prevalence
Of interest, a high proportion of Clostridium perfringens isolates were found to be resistant to antimicrobials commonly used in feed, and use of these antimicrobials was a risk factor in the development of resistance.  

“Finding alternatives to the use of antimicrobials in the feed to prevent necrotic enteritis should continue to be a priority for the industry,” Dr. Guerin asserted.

Dr. Guerin highlights that of all the pathogens surveyed, only Clostridium difficile poses a potential risk of infection for humans via the food chain, and despite the fact that toxigenic strains were found among the isolates, the proportion of positive flocks was low.

This research was funded by the Animal Health Laboratory’s AHSI, Poultry Industry Council, OMAFRA- U of G Partnership, and Chicken Farmers of Ontario. 


*Avian adeno-associated virus (AAAV), Avian encephalomyelitis virus (AEV), Avian reovirus (ARV), Chicken anemia virus (CAV), Fowl adenovirus (FAdV), Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), Infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), Infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV), Newcastle disease virus (NDV).

 

 

July 14, 2015 - Canada's poultry industry will be able to address a significant productivity issue thanks to a $400,000 investment from Western Economic Diversification Canada.
This investment will enable the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) to develop and commercialize a novel technology that delivers an immunity-boosting aerosol protectant to chickens as an alternative to antibiotics.
This project supports a multi-regional partnership with poultry farms based in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, and engages highly qualified personnel in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia as well as industry associations from both Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The funding will allow WCVM veterinary pathologist Dr. Susantha Gomis to realize nearly 10 years of avian immunity research and develop a novel, non-antibiotic, non-vaccine aerosol that can be used at the hatchery to protect birds before they are shipped to farms.  More information is available here

 

Dr. Suresh Neethirajan and his team from the “BioNano Laboratory” of the University of Guelph have worked to develop a new detection system capable of detecting small amounts of avian influenza virus within minutes. It’s a diagnostic tool not only capable of detecting the virus rapidly on-site, but that will also enable field deployable, point-of-care diagnostic systems.

Influenza is one of the most common infectious diseases, resulting in up to half a million human deaths annually. Influenza A, a subtype of the virus associated with pandemics and causing most deaths, is further classified according to the properties of two viral surface proteins called hemagglutin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). The H1N1 human-adapted strain of the virus caused up to 40 million human deaths in 1919 and the recently detected H5N1 avian influenza strain, commonly termed “bird flu”, has resulted in up to half a million human deaths since 2000.

“Considering the threat which avian influenza poses to human health and the growth of the agricultural sector, investing in disease control strategies is vital”, explains Dr. Suresh Neethirajan in describing the issue at hand. “Preventing the spread of the infection is the best way to keep the disease under control. Prevention in this case starts with effective surveillance.”

Dr. Neethirajan explains the current status of their findings in a report: “a novel sensing mechanism for quicker detection of avian influenza. Sensitivity of the sensing mechanism is possible for both H1N1-HA and H5N1-HA allowing the discrimination between avian and human influenza. This proves to be extremely valuable in the recent human influenza pandemic caused by poultry birds.

We have created a rapid animal health pen side diagnostic tool that only needs less volume of blood, less chemicals and less time compared to the currently used methods. The sensing mechanism and the technique have the potential to serve as a feasible and sensitive diagnostic tool for influenza virus detection and discrimination for poultry industries, with further improvement on the architectures”.

The developed sensing assay will aid not only the poultry industries, producers and farmers, but also the public. The technology under development will ultimately be deployed towards early diagnosis of avian influenza. The results from the proposed point of care test for early diagnosis will assist in identifying potential public health threats.

This project was funded by the Poultry Industry Council and the Turkey Farmers of Ontario.

 

 

 

April 15, 2015 - U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have developed an improved Newcastle disease virus (NDV) vaccine evaluation procedure that could be used to select better vaccines to treat the disease.

Newcastle disease, one of the most important poultry diseases worldwide, can cause severe illness in chickens and other birds. Severe, or virulent, strains rarely occur in poultry species in the United States, but they are regularly found in poultry in many foreign countries.

Available commercial NDV vaccines perform well in chickens infected with virulent NDV under experimental conditions. They also perform well under field conditions where virulent virus is not common. However, they often fail in countries where virulent viruses are endemic.At the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in Athens, Georgia, microbiologist Claudio Afonso and veterinary medical officer Patti Miller have updated the traditional vaccine evaluation method, which does not compare vaccines or take into account suboptimal field conditions.

Under perfect conditions, vaccines should work, but conditions are not always perfect in the field, according to Miller. Chickens sometimes get less than the required vaccine dose and don't always have the minimum amount of time required to develop an optimum immune response.

The improved vaccine-evaluation procedure compares vaccines made using genes from the same viral strain-or genotype-that the birds are exposed to in the field to vaccines made with a strain that differs from the virus birds are exposed to.

Using the improved procedure, scientists inoculated chickens with different vaccine doses before exposure to a high dose of virulent NDV. Birds given the genotype-matched vaccine had reduced viral shedding, superior immune responses, reduced clinical signs, and increased survival than the birds vaccinated with a different-genotype vaccine.

By using genotype-matched vaccines, viral shedding and death were significantly reduced.ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

March 4, 2015 - Prairie Diagnostic Services Inc. will receive $549,278 from Ottawa for new equipment to "expand and modernize'" its testing efficiency. Brad Trost, MP for Saskatoon-Humboldt, said the funding will help veterinarians, livestock and feed producers and exporters to be able to better ensure Canada's food safety both domestically and abroad. He says the new equipment will help with bacteriology, toxicology, pathology and food testing. The Leader Post reports. 

A number of poultry industry groups are using a less costly method to collect avian influenza virus samples, thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

At the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in Athens, Ga., scientists conduct studies not only to identify various avian influenza virus strains, but also to determine their origin and whether current tests and vaccines are effective against them. In addition, the scientists investigate the best methods for collecting virus samples from poultry for testing.

In the United States, all meat chickens and turkeys must be tested for avian influenza before processing. Sample collection is an important component of this process.

A certain number of swab samples, taken from inside the birds’ mouths, are needed per flock to get a reasonable virus sample, according to microbiologist Erica Spackman, who works in SEPRL’s Exotic and Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Research Unit. The current method used to determine if virus is present works well, but requires placing only one to five swab samples in a tube.

Spackman found that improvements could be made by switching the type of swab used and increasing the number or swabs in each tube.

“One of the most important variables is the number of swabs required—the sample size we take from inside the mouth of the chicken or turkey to see if the virus is there,” Spackman says. “We need to collect a certain number of swab samples per flock to get a reasonable virus sample.”

Swab samples are collected from the same flock and put into tubes for testing. Traditionally, each tube contains 1-5 swab samples. The idea was to determine whether more swab samples could be pooled together into a single tube without inhibiting or affecting the sensitivity of the test.

Spackman found that putting 1, 5, or 11 swab samples in the same tube did not affect testing. A similar experiment with Newcastle virus samples had the same results.

This research, which was published in BioMed Central Veterinary Research in 2013, supports the USDA’s priority of promoting international food security.

ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.

 

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