The drive to find an acceptable vaccine against avian influenza (bird flu) is gathering pace in Europe amid the worst and most widespread outbreak in the region’s history.
Europe is experiencing year-round outbreaks of what used to be a winter-only disease. We reported in Vol 103 on the belief that, without a vaccine, bird flu would be “unstoppable” in the European Union and elsewhere.
However, many countries ban poultry imports from countries where bird flu vaccines are used, because of the difficulty in distinguishing between an infected bird and a vaccinated one. There is a second fear: that vaccinated flocks may become infected but show no symptoms, allowing the silent spread of the disease.
Scientists at the research institute Wageningen University in Holland are hoping that they may come up with some answers. In work commissioned by the Dutch government, Wageningen is trialling three different vaccines produced by three pharmaceutical companies. Results are expected in December, according to a report in Poultry Network.
“We expect that the new types of vaccines we are testing in this trial provide better protection against the spread of the virus than previous vaccines,” said Wageningen researcher Nancy Beerens.
“Furthermore, it is possible to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals with specific diagnostic tests.”
The extent of the outbreak is shown in a report in MarketScreener, which says 47 million birds have died or been culled during the current outbreak in the United States, and a further 50 million in the European Union.