Scientists are paving the way for a vaccine to combat a devastating avian disease, through a research project co-funded by Marie Curie Actions.
The "necrotic enteritis" disease, a major concern for the poultry farming industry worldwide, could be prevented with a vaccine that is being developed at the University of Exeter, based on work with Ghent University, Belgium and Birkbeck College, University of London. The vaccine will help farmers tackle this devastating disease, costing the worldwide poultry industry some £600 million a year.
Recent cut in the use of antibiotics in the animals' feeds to promote their growth has resulted in a dramatic increase of that severe disease. Necrotic enteritis causes lesions in the intestines of poultry, resulting in severe illness and even death. It is caused by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens. Research has shown that the bacterium produces a toxin called NetB and much of the disease is caused by the effects of this toxin. Researchers have unravelled the molecular structure of the NetB toxin. Exchanging crucial amino acids in the NetB toxin, using molecular biology techniques, has enabled the researchers to identify a non-toxic form of NetB.
The researchers have discovered that immunisation with non-toxic NetB results in protection against necrotic enteritis. This research has just been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and in Vaccine.
Sergio Fernandes da Costa, from the University of Exeter, said: “This is a tremendous step towards developing a necrotic enteritis vaccine that will control this disease in the future. We are working closely with the animal health industry to develop a product that can be efficiently given to entire poultry flocks in feed or water.”
Further information is available here.