The diseases caused by pathogenic Escherichia coli constitute a major economic loss to the poultry industry. The development of a live oral E. coli vaccine to prevent or reduce diseases in poultry had been the objective of our work. Four spontaneous streptomycin-dependent (str-dependent) mutants were generated from a virulent avian strain that contains a mutation in the fur region of the chromosome. Genetic analysis of the mutants indicated that the str-dependent phenotype was due to a base change of C → T at base 272 in the rpsL gene. The mutants were tested for attenuation using the day-old chick model. Day-old birds, in groups of 20, were either challenged with 106 colony-forming units (CFU) of the str-dependent mutant, the parent strain (containing the fur mutation), or the wild-type strain without the fur mutation. The parent strain and the wild-type strain were highly virulent, and 80% or more of the birds died. None of the birds challenged with the str-dependent mutants died, indicating attenuation of the mutants. The protective effect of the mutant as a live vaccine against the challenge with 106 CFU of the wild-type strain EC317 was investigated. Vaccination by both aerosol (day 1) and oral (days 14 and 28) routes using 108 CFU of the str-dependent mutant (EC1598) had no effect on the occurrence of cellulitis in the birds. Two vaccinations given as aerosol on day 1 and given orally on day 14 also had no significant effect on the occurrence of systemic lesions. Three immunizations on days 1, 14, and 28 resulted in a significant reduction in the number of birds with systemic lesions. Antibody titers prior to challenge were not predictive of outcome of challenge.
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Vol. 48 • No. 1