A new vaccine is being tested by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the Pirbright Institute in the UK for its efficacy in combating the infectious bronchitis virus in millions of chickens around the world.
The virus is highly contagious, and every year the global poultry industry suffers major economic losses as a result. Infected chickens suffer weight loss, decreased egg production and impaired egg quality. They are also left vulnerable to other diseases.
Current vaccines protect against some strains of the virus, but not others.
Experts say these failures are possibly linked to differences in the spike protein that allows the virus to attach to and enter cells in the different strains of the virus, according to Prof Lonneke Vervelde, who led the study at Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute.
The researchers were now testing a new approach using a specialist vaccine, known as a recombinant virus vaccine.
Harmless or weak versions of a virus or bacterium are used in the vaccine to introduce microbes into cells in the fowl’s body.
These recombinant vaccines would also be more cost-effective and would respond effectively to emerging new virus strains, he said.