In this study, the sequence of the H5 and PB1 genes of the low-pathogenic avian influenza virus (LPAI) A/Black Duck/NC/674-964/06 isolate were determined for replikin peptides and used to design and chemically synthesize a vaccine. The vaccine was used to immunize specific-pathogen-free (SPF) leghorn chickens held in Horsfall isolation units, by the upper respiratory route, at 1, 7, and 14 days of age. The birds were challenged at 28 days of age with 1 × 106 50% embryo infective dose of the LPAI Black Duck/NC/674-964/06 H5N1 virus per bird. Oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs were collected at 2, 4, and 7 days postinoculation (PI) for virus detection by real-time RT-PCR. Serum was collected at 7, 14, and 21 days PI and examined for antibodies against avian influenza virus by the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and hemagglutination inhibition (HI) tests. Tissue samples for histopathology were collected from three birds per group at 3 days PI. The experimental design consisted of a negative control group (not vaccinated and not challenged) and a vaccinated group, a vaccinated and challenged group, and a positive control group (challenged only). None of the nonchallenged birds, the vaccinated birds, or the vaccinated and challenged birds showed overt clinical signs of disease during the study. A slight depression was observed in the nonvaccinated challenged birds on day 2 postchallenge. Although the numbers of birds per group are small, no shedding of the challenge virus was detected in the vaccinated and challenged birds, whereas oropharyngeal and cloacal shedding was detected in the nonvaccinated and challenged birds. HI antibodies were detected in the vaccinated and nonchallenged group as well as in the vaccinated and challenged group, but rising antibody titers, indicating infection with the LPAI challenge virus, were not detected. Rising HI titers were observed in the nonvaccinated and challenged group. In addition, no antibodies were detected in the nonchallenged birds. Noteworthy microscopic lesions were not observed in the vaccinated and challenged birds, whereas nonvaccinated-challenged birds had microscopic lesions consistent with infection with LPAI viruses. Taken together, these data indicate that a replikin peptide vaccine, specifically made against the H5N1 Black Duck/NC/674-964/06 isolate, and administered three times to the upper respiratory tract, was capable of protecting chickens from infection and from shedding of the homologous virus, which is extremely important because reduced virus shedding and transmission decreases the potential for H5 LPAI viruses to become HPAI viruses. The study is also important because it shows that the vaccine can be effectively mass-delivered to the upper respiratory tract.
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Vol. 53 • No. 4