Attenuated derivatives (Δcya Δcrp mutants) of an O2 and an O78 avian septicemic Escherichia coli strain were used to immunize broiler chickens by spray to determine the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of the derivatives in single- and double-dose regimens. In the safety and immunogenicity studies, groups of 10 chickens were vaccinated by spray (droplet size ∼20 µm) with the parent E. coli, the mutant organisms, or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) at 14 days of age and euthanatised 21 days later. There was no deaths or gross pathologic finding in any of the chickens immunized with the vaccine strains. Compared with the levels in chickens exposed to PBS, there were significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin (Ig) G antibody in serum and air sac washings and of IgA antibody in air sac washings in response to the virulent parent strains than to the vaccine strains. In efficacy studies, chickens were immunized with the O2 or the O78 vaccine strain or PBS at day 14 and with the O2 vaccine strain or PBS at days 10 and 14 and challenged with the parent strain 10 days after the last vaccination. There was no significant difference in local IgA and IgG and serum IgG responses between vaccinated and control groups. Chickens vaccinated with the O2 strain, but not the O78 strain, had significantly lower air sac lesion scores compared with those of the unvaccinated groups in both single- and double-dose regimens. We conclude that the mutant O2 strain provided moderate protection against airsacculitis.
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