What’s new in vaccination

New innovation and technologies will result in vaccines becoming even more efficient and playing an even greater role in disease prevention, reports Glenneis Kriel
calendar icon 7 June 2018
clock icon 7 minute read

With demand for animal protein growing, and with rising concerns over animal welfare, microbial resistance and food safety, the focus in poultry health care has switched from treatment to prevention. This shift is specifically evident in changing attitudes towards the use of vaccines to prevent many infectious diseases – whereas most countries were against this practice only a few years ago, a growing number have started supporting the use of vaccines to alleviate the impact of these dreadful diseases.

One example is the strong support Boehringer Ingelheim is providing the industry in terms of the development, manufacturing and supply of vaccines to prevent avian influenza. In 2016 the company sold more than three billion doses of vaccine viruses for the most common avian influenza strains in various parts of the world.

“Prevention is indeed the focus of Boehringer Ingelheim,” says Jérôme Baudon, head of the company’s Global Poultry Strategic Business Unit, “and the recent acquisition of Merial Animal Health last January, is of big interest for the development of preventive solutions dedicated to the poultry industry. Together we can provide tailored and comprehensive programmes for poultry health care today and in the future.”

However Dr Taylor Barbosa, head of poultry at MSD Animal Health, points out that regions such as the United States and Europe will refrain from using vaccines against avian influenza unless the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) changes its stance on the use of vaccination to curb the disease. “Countries using vaccination to reduce their avian influenza disease risk are prohibited from exporting poultry products to various countries that closely follow OIE recommendations,” says Barbosa. “These countries will not alter their position, as long as the OIE endorse prevention and the stamping out of the disease as best practices.”

Vaccination in the hatchery

Whereas in the past the majority of vaccines were administered on the farm, the development of next-generation vaccines with the ability to provide lifelong protection against multiple diseases and evade maternal immunity interference, has resulted in hatcheries becoming the new focal point of vaccination (in the past maternal antibodies that were transferred from birds to their offspring and helped to protect the chicks from diseases, used to react with vaccines either neutralizing or diminishing the protection offered by a vaccine). According to Dr Sylvain Comte, poultry franchise director of Ceva, vaccination in the hatchery leads to better performance, because there is less room for error and it is safer, more efficient and more convenient than having to vaccinate birds on a farm.

Dr Comte estimates that more than 65 percent of the global broiler population is receiving injections in hatcheries. While the picture differs significantly from region to region, the practice is generally picking up in all territories. In 2012, Ceva estimated that 100 percent of all broilers in North America were injected at the hatchery, compared to 97 percent of the broiler population in Latin America, 52 percent in Asia, 49 percent in Central and Eastern Europe, 41 percent in Western Europe and 20 percent in Africa and the Middle East.

He says the shift was spurred on by the development of new automated technologies that rendered vaccination at the hatchery more affordable for even smaller hatcheries as well as a growing realisation of the importance of protecting chicks as early as possible.

Dr Barbosa notes that the United States, with its big commercial hatcheries, was the first country to adopt new technologies for vaccination at the hatchery, whether in ovo or for day-old chicks. Other regions saw the US’s success and are now following suit: “Almost all the new hatcheries across the world, whether big or small, these days are equipped with technology that allows them to vaccinate the birds on the premises. Also, new products and technologies are now available to match the needs of different regions.”

Improved efficiency

Companies are also realising that innovative vaccines mean nothing unless they are administered properly. “Even the best vaccine can only work if it is administered correctly, inside the bird or egg, in the right place, at the right dose and in a clean environment,” explains Carlos Gonzalez, director of Ceva’s vaccination and equipment services.

Companies, in effect, are putting a lot of effort into research and technologies aimed at improving vaccination outcomes. Many questions, for example, surround the best embryonic age at which in ovo vaccination should be practised. Dr Christophe Cazaban from Ceva Veterinary Services has answered this question, by scientifically demonstrating the best time to be between days 18.5 and 19.

A lot of effort is also placed in removing human error through automated processes. Gonzalez points out that Ceva has not only developed in ovo vaccination machinery that helps to standardise the process, but the machines are able to improve biosecurity by removing non-viable eggs from the hatchery.

“The removal of non-viable eggs helps to reduce contamination risks as well as the bacterial load during hatching,” says Gonzalez. “This translates into healthier, more resilient chicks at the start of production, which in turn is becoming increasingly important in a world where there is mounting pressure for antibiotic-free production.”

Another example of how Ceva is adding value to their services is their upside-down egg remover, which Gonzalez estimates can save an average hatchery with roughly 15 million birds up to €50,000 a year.

New technological developments

The development of new technologies will spur the development of improved products. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, for example, has developed a procedure that would render glycoconjugate vaccines available to the veterinary market.

“Glycoconjugate vaccines have only been available to the human market up until now, because they entail an expensive multi-step manufacturing procedure,” explains Professor Brendan Wren, explained Prof Brendan Wren, dean of the school’s Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases. “We have however developed Protein Glycon Coupling Technology that allows E. coli to act as a mini factory cell that allows us to produce glycoconjugates in a single step procedure.”

What’s more, the technology can be used to develop vaccines that offer protection against more than one disease, by adding combinations of proteins (or glycans) from different disease-causing bacteria. “We are working on a poultry vaccine that would simultaneously offer protection against E. coli, Clostridia and Campylobacter, at the price of manufacturing one vaccine,” says Wren.

MSD Animal Health has also recently used biotechnology to launch the world’s first dual-construct HVT (herpes virus of turkeys) vaccine that simultaneously protects birds from infectious bursal, Mareck’s disease and Newcastle disease. The vaccine can be given in ovo or subcutaneously in the hatchery and provides lifelong protection against these devastating diseases. “By protecting against multiple diseases with a single injection, the vaccine also improves poultry welfare by reducing the stress associated with multiple vaccinations and speeds up the vaccination process, allowing for optimum performance,” says Dr Barbosa.

The development of new technologies is also resulting in greater traceability and transparency from the hatchery to the market. HIRPA, for example, has digitalised the vaccination process by adding a chip into the label of their vaccines. This allows users to control, plan and analyse all stages of the vaccination process. In addition, the company is using its website to alert veterinarians and producers of disease outbreaks in their specific regions.

Greater co-operation

There is also a general trend whereby companies partner with others and customers to improve their services and vaccination outcomes. “Industry players are generous in sharing information and best practices, as we realise that we are all part of the same industry and any improvements are for the greater good,” says Dr Barbosa.

This article was originally published in the November 2017 edition of Poultry Digital Magazine

Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

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