Robotics Help Combat Poultry Infections

Scientists have developed a system that allows chicks to be vaccinated while still in their shells to protect them against a disease that costs the industry millions.

Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) causes losses of £23.6m a year and is the most costly infectious disease to the poultry industry. The new vaccine, which has been developed by the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) and Intervet UK, can be injected into eggs with robotic vaccinators.

The new vaccine is far more efficient than existing types, which are normally sprayed or put in drinking water.

The vaccine was developed by extracting a so-called spike protein from a pathogenic virus strain which triggers an immune response, and incorporating it into a harmless non-pathogenic strain.

Dr Paul Britton, from IAH said: "This hybrid virus was able to induce immunity when inoculated before hatching. When hatched chicks were exposed to the virulent M41 strain, we observed protection rates of up to 100%.

"With the UK poultry industry sustaining losses of £23.6m a year to infectious bronchitis virus we hope that our research could have a real impact on improving yields for UK farmers.

"We are currently trying to modify the vaccine further, in collaboration with Intervet, to make it suitable for commercial use," he said.

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