A single vaccination of commercial broilers does not reduce transmission of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza

Poetri, O.; Bouma, A.; Claassen, I.J.T.M.; Koch, G.; Soejoedono, R.; Stegeman, A.; Boven, M.


Vaccination of chickens has become routine practice in Asian countries in which H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is endemically present. This mainly applies to layer and breeder flocks, but broilers are usually left unvaccinated. Here we investigate whether vaccination is able to reduce HPAI H5N1 virus transmission among broiler chickens. Four sets of experiments were carried out, each consisting of 22 replicate trials containing a pair of birds. Experiments 1-3 were carried out with four-week-old birds that were unvaccinated, and vaccinated at day 1 or at day 10 of age. Experiment 4 was carried out with unvaccinated day-old broiler chicks. One chicken in each trial was inoculated with H5N1 HPAI virus. One chicken in each trial was inoculated with virus. The course of the infection chain was monitored by serological analysis, and by virus isolation performed on tracheal and cloacal swabs. The analyses were based on a stochastic SEIR model using a Bayesian inferential framework. When inoculation was carried out at the 28(th) day of life, transmission was efficient in unvaccinated birds, and in birds vaccinated at first or tenth day of life. In these experiments estimates of the latent period (similar to 1.0 day), infectious period (similar to 3.3 days), and transmission rate parameter (similar to 1.4 per day) were similar, as were estimates of the reproduction number (similar to 4) and generation interval (similar to 1.4 day). Transmission was significantly less efficient in unvaccinated chickens when inoculation was carried out on the first day of life. These results show that vaccination of broiler chickens does not reduce transmission, and suggest that this may be due to the interference of maternal immunity.