Field application of a subunit vaccine against an enteric protozoan disease
Background: Coccidiosis is a major global veterinary health problem in intensively reared chickens. It is caused by apicomplexan parasites of the genus Eimeria. Principal Findings: A subunit vaccine composed of purified antigens from the gametocytes of Eimeria maxima was used to stimulate the production and transfer of maternal antibodies between breeding hens and their hatchlings. The vaccine was injected into hens twice before they began laying eggs. Immunization had no adverse affects on egg laying or health of the hens and resulted in high antibody levels throughout the life of the hens. Progeny of immunized hens excreted significantly less oocysts of various species of Eimeria in their faeces than chicks from unvaccinated hens. Furthermore, the offspring of vaccinated hens developed stronger natural immunity to Eimeria, so that they were resistant to challenge infection even at 8 weeks of age, well after all maternal antibodies had left their circulation. Field trials were conducted in South Africa, Brazil and Thailand, involving at least 1 million progeny of vaccinated hens and at least 1 million positive control birds (raised on feed containing anticoccidial drugs or immunized with a live vaccine) in each country. Additionally, trials were carried out in Israel involving 60 million progeny of vaccinated hens and 112 million positive control birds. There were no significant differences in growth rate, feed conversion ratios or mortality in the offspring of vaccinated hens compared with the positive control chickens in any of these countries regardless of different management practices, different breeds of chickens or climate. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that a vaccine composed of antigens purified from the gametocytes of Eimeria can be used safely and effectively to prevent the deleterious effects of coccidiosis. It is the first subunit vaccine against any protozoan parasite to be successfully applied on a commercial scale. © 2008 Wallach et al.
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