Infections of avian influenza virus (AIV) in turkey breeder hens can cause a decrease in both egg production and quality, resulting in significant production losses. In North Carolina in 2003, a triple-reassortant H3N2 AIV containing human, swine, and avian gene segments was isolated from turkey breeder hens (A/turkey/NC/16108/03). This viral subtype was subsequently isolated from both turkeys and swine in Ohio in 2004, and in Minnesota in 2005, and was responsible for significant losses in turkey production. The objective of this study was to determine if currently available commercial, inactivated avian influenza H3 subtype oil-emulsion vaccines would protect laying turkey hens from egg production losses following challenge with the 2003 H3N2 field virus isolate from North Carolina. Laying turkey hens were vaccinated in the field with two injections of either a commercial monovalent (A/duck/Minnesota/79/79 [H3N4]) or autogenous bivalent (A/turkey/North Carolina/05 (H3N2)–A/turkey/North Carolina/88 [H1N1]) vaccine, at 26 and 30 wk of age, and subsequently challenged under BSL 3-Ag conditions at 32 wk of age. Vaccine-induced efficacy was determined as protection from a 50% decrease in egg production and from a decrease in egg quality within 21 days postchallenge. Results indicate that, following a natural route of challenge (eye drop and intranasal), birds vaccinated with the 2005 North Carolina H3N2 subtype were significantly protected from the drop in egg production observed in both the H3N4 vaccinated and sham-vaccinated hens. The results demonstrate that groups receiving vaccines containing either H3 subtype had a decreased number of unsettable eggs, increased hemagglutination inhibition titers following challenge, and decreased virus isolations from cloacal swabs as compared to the sham-vaccinated group. Phylogenetic analysis of the nucleotide sequence of the HA1 gene segment from the three H3 viruses used in these studies indicated that the two North Carolina turkey isolates had 90.4 % similarity in HA1 nucleotide sequence, but had only 77.4% and 76.1% sequence similarity to the HA1 of the H3N4 duck isolate. This study provides the first detailed description of the clinical protection afforded to laying turkey hens by vaccination against challenge with a circulating field isolate of a H3N2 triple-reassortant AIV.
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Vol. 53 • No. 1