Research & Development Vaccine Against Avian Influenza Proves to Be Effective in...

Vaccine Against Avian Influenza Proves to Be Effective in Laying Hens

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Globally, hundreds of millions of poultry have lost their lives to bird flu, or highly pathogenic avian influenza. Among this group, laying hens have been the most affected, causing the prices of eggs to skyrocket in recent years. According to a statement by the Dutch government, their research has found that bird flu vaccines in laying hens have proven to be effective in practice, thereby mitigating concerns of possible transmissions from poultry to humans.

These concerns have been especially rising in the U.S., where the virus has already transferred from poultry into mammals, such as dairy cows. The fear is that the virus may also transfer to humans through the milk produced by these infected animals.

The situation has become dire enough that last week in Australia, not only was a different highly infectious strain found on an egg farm, but the first case of avian influenza in a child was also detected. It was revealed that the child had caught the disease in India.

Given the circumstances, it has become a priority to vaccinate poultry animals against the virus on a large scale as quickly as possible.

Research conducted last year by the laboratory of Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) found two vaccines, one by Boehringer Ingelheim and one by Ceva Animal Health, to be effective against the virus, although they had not been tested on farms. Boehringer Ingelheim and Ceva Animal Health are German and French firms, respectively.

In the testing reported by the Dutch agriculture ministry in September of last year, approximately 1,800 chicks that were only a day old were tested against the virus using the two vaccines. Eight weeks after administration, the vaccines were found to be working efficiently against the virus. The research initiative was headed by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University, Wageningen University & Research (WUR), and the Animal Health Service of the Royal GD.

The reason why this testing has proven to be more reliable is that the tests were carried out at two laying farms.

A statement released by the agricultural ministry further explained that in order to move towards the large-scale vaccination of poultry against the bird flu virus, it was first important to establish the vaccine’s effectiveness in practice.

“The government intends to make large-scale vaccination possible responsibly, taking into account animal and public health, as well as animal welfare, and to minimize any unfavorable effects of the vaccination on trade. That is why a step-by-step approach was chosen,” the statement said.

Despite these findings, to assess the vaccine’s effectiveness during the entirety of the laying period, additional evaluation will be needed according to sources in the Dutch government. For this reason, other transmission trials will be conducted over the next 18 months.

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