Edmonton, Alta. – The province of Alberta and a team of researchers are working together to create a new vaccine for poultry.
The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd. (ALMA), a provincial government agency, says the team is targeting two pathogens that affect poultry producers: Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens).
Salmonella species are the bacteria that can cause foodborne illness in humans when they eat contaminated eggs or other poultry products that weren’t properly cooked.
By targeting Salmonella through flock vaccination, contamination of eggs and meat can be reduced without the use of broad scope antibiotics.
ALMA says the poultry industry has been looking for ways to reduce its use of antibiotics due to concerns around the emergence of antibiotic resistant pathogens.
Since only a very small portion of Salmonella species can cause foodborne illnesses in humans, a vaccine would need to target only these pathogenic species.
The second pathogen the research team is targetting is C. perfringens, which causes necrotic enteritis in broiler flocks.
This infectious disease can spread through fecal matter and have a fatality rate as high as 50 per cent depending on conditions.
The financial impact of C. perfringens on producers can be quite significant and the current method for controlling the disease is through antibiotic treatment.
Development of a vaccine would prove an effective alternative to improve flock health.
Dr. Christine Szymanski and Dr. Mario Feldman are leading the team of researchers. Both are world leaders in bacterial glycomics – the study of the structure, biosynthesis, biology and evolution of sugars that are widely distributed in nature and the proteins that recognize them.
Because they are specialists in the field of bacterial glycoengineering, Szymanski and Feldman’s team is focusing on sugar structures shared by the vast majority of these two pathogens, instead of developing vaccines for each type of Salmonella species and C. perfringens found in chickens.
“Like all of our cells, bacteria also require proteins and sugar structures to function properly,” explains Szymanski.
“The sugar structures, the glycans, are key to the vaccine we are creating. The glycans from pathogenic Salmonella and C. perfringens are expressed in non-pathogenic strains as well. This means we can create a vaccine from harmless bacterial strains that will help the bird’s immune system identify and destroy the pathogenic strains. In this way, a single vaccine will simulate an immune response in the bird that will protect it from a broad array of Salmonella and C. perfringens strains.”