Some new exciting technology has gained USDA conditional approval for the poultry industry. It is a DNA vaccine for avian influenza. Agrilabs indicates the vaccine is created by splicing a gene for a specific antigen related to an avian influenza virus into a bacterial plasmid, and then the plasmid is administered along with an adjuvant that improves vaccine delivery into target cells. Once the antigen is in the target cells, an immune response is triggered to hopefully allow the animal’s immune system to fight off the disease. The conditional license allows Agrilabs to stock pile large amounts of the vaccine if the vaccine is needed for a future avian flu outbreak. The company indicates this is a major milestone in realizing the promise of DNA vaccines in animal health. Past DNA vaccines have failed to be effective and were too costly and inconvenient, but the company’s newly developed adjuvant has helped to increase effectiveness. An adjuvant is a chemical added to a vaccine to make it more effective.
DNA vaccines do not expose animals to the actual disease so there is no risk of the animal developing the disease as could happen with a modified live viral vaccine. And if vaccinated animals do become infected, it can be determined if the infection is due to the virus or the vaccine. The company indicates that the adjuvant is a really important part of this vaccine as it allows a lower dose of vaccine to be used, which lowers the cost. The company is also using the same technology to develop vaccines for swine influenza and cattle. Avian influenza is highly contagious and deadly, and because many chickens are housed together, avian influenza can wipe out an entire flock in a short period of time.