A NEW vaccine strategy could offer protection to millions of chickens threatened by a serious respiratory disease known as infectious bronchitis virus.

This highly contagious disease is responsible for major economic losses to the poultry industry worldwide, leaving infected chickens vulnerable to weight loss, decreased egg production and impaired egg quality.

Current vaccines protect against some strains of the virus, but not others. However, new research published in the Journal of Virology was revealed by the University of Edinburgh and the Pirbright Institute to have tested a new approach, using a specialist type of vaccine – known as recombinant virus vaccines.

These vaccines use harmless or weak versions of a virus or bacteria to introduce microbes into cells in the body. Results show the vaccine offered partial protection against infectious bronchitis virus, but further research is needed to develop a more robust vaccine.

Professor Lonneke Vervelde, who led the study at the University’s Roslin Institute, commented: “There is a real need to develop new vaccines against infectious bronchitis that protect against multiple strains and offer rapid responses. We are trying to make a vaccine that offers broad protection, but further research is needed to develop a more robust vaccine.”

Researchers say these recombinant vaccines have potential to be more cost effective and respond to emerging new virus strains. The next step will be to make a vaccine that remains harmless but induces a stronger immune response.