Waterfowl play a key role in the epidemiology of the H5N1 subtype of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus; therefore, efficient immunization of domesticated ducks and geese to maximize the impact of other control measures is of great importance. A recombinant (r)HVT-AI, expressing the HA gene of a clade 2.2 H5N1 HPAI strain had been developed and proved to be efficient against different clades of H5N1 HPAI virus in chickens after a single vaccination at 1 day old and could provide long-term immunity. We investigated whether rHVT-AI applied at 1 day old is able to replicate in different species and crossbreeds of ducks and in geese with the aim of collecting data on the possible application of rHVT-AI vaccine in different species of waterfowl for the control of H5N1 HPAI. We tested the possible differences among different waterfowl species, i.e., between geese (Anser anser, domesticated greylag goose), Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata forma domestica), Pekin ducks (Anas platyrhynchos forma domestica), and mule ducks (Muscovy duck × Pekin duck), in their susceptibility to support the replication of rHVT-AI. Vaccine virus replication was followed by real-time PCR in spleen, bursa, and feather tip samples. Humoral immune response to vaccination was tested using the hemagglutination inhibition (HI) test and H5-specific commercial ELISA. Significant differences among the different waterfowl species regarding the rate of rHVT-AI replication was detected that were not reflected by the same difference in the immune response to vaccination. Replication of the rHVT-AI vaccine was very limited in Pekin ducks, somewhat better in mule ducks, and the vaccine virus was replicating significantly better in Muscovy ducks and geese, reaching 100% detectability at certain time points after administration at 1 day old. Results indicated that the vaccine virus could establish different levels of persistent infection in these species of waterfowl. No humoral immune response could be detected either by HI test or ELISA during the tested postvaccination period (5 wk).
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Vol. 60 • No. 1s