A highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 (clade 184.108.40.206) virus, circulating in Asia (South Korea, Japan, and southern China) since the beginning of 2014, reached the European continent in November 2014. Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Hungary confirmed H5N8 infection of poultry farms of different species and of several wild bird species. Unlike the Asian highly pathogenic (HP) H5N1, this HP H5N8 also went transatlantic and reached the American West Coast by the end of 2014, affecting wild birds as well as backyard and commercial poultry. This strain induces high mortality and morbidity in Galliformes, whereas wild birds seem only moderately affected. A recombinant turkey herpesvirus (rHVT) vector vaccine expressing the H5 gene of a clade 2.2 H5N1 strain (rHVT-H5) previously demonstrated a highly efficient clinical protection and reduced viral excretion against challenge with Asian HP H5N1 strains of various clades (2.2, 2.2.1, 220.127.116.11, 2.1.3, 18.104.22.168, and 22.214.171.124) and was made commercially available in various countries where the disease is endemic. To evaluate the protective efficacy of the rHVT-H5 vaccine against the first German H5N8 turkey isolate (H5N8 GE), a challenge experiment was set up in specific-pathogen-free (SPF) chickens, and the clinical and excretional protection was evaluated. SPF chickens were vaccinated subcutaneously at 1 day old and challenged oculonasally at 4 wk of age with two viral dosages, 105 and 106 50% egg infective doses. Morbidity and mortality were monitored daily in unvaccinated and vaccinated groups, whereas viral shedding by oropharyngeal and cloacal routes was evaluated at 2, 5, 9, and 14 days postinoculation (dpi). Serologic monitoring after vaccination and challenge was also carried out. Despite its high antigenic divergence of the challenge H5N8 strain, a single rHVT-H5 vaccine administration at 1 day old resulted in a full clinical protection against challenge and a significant reduction of viral shedding in the vaccinated birds.
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Vol. 60 • No. 1s