The most recent pandemic clade of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5, clade 188.8.131.52, spread widely, with the involvement of wild birds, most importantly wild waterfowl, carrying the virus (even asymptomatically) from Asia to North America, Europe, and Africa. Domestic waterfowl being in regular contact with wild birds played a significant role in the H5Nx epizootics. Therefore, protection of domestic waterfowl from H5Nx avian influenza infection would likely cut the transmission chain of these viruses and greatly enhance efforts to control and prevent disease outbreak in other poultry and animal species, as well as infection of humans. The expectation for such a vaccine is not only to provide clinical protection, but also to control challenge virus transmission efficiently and ensure that the ability to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals is retained. A water-in-oil emulsion virus-like particle vaccine, containing homologous hemagglutinin antigen to the current European H5N8 field strains, has been developed to meet these requirements. The vaccine was tested in commercial Pekin and mule ducks by vaccinating them either once, at 3 wk of age, or twice (at 1 day and at 3 wk of age). Challenge was performed at 6 wk of age with a Hungarian HPAIV H5N8 isolate (184.108.40.206 Group B). Efficacy of vaccination was evaluated on the basis of clinical signs, amount of virus shedding, and transmission. Vaccination resulted in complete clinical protection and prevention of challenge virus transmission from the directly challenged vaccinated ducks to the vaccinated contact animals.
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Vol. 63 • No. sp1