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GM technology unlocks potential for new poultry vaccines

February 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Livestock


Scientists have used genetic engineering to develop a more efficient and effective vaccine against Marek’s disease – a move which could pave the way for a new generation of poultry vaccines.

The UK poultry meat industry is estimated to be worth £3.6bn to the economy – employing around 80,000 people. But the growth and security of the sector is threatened by many viruses, including Marek’s disease, which can lead to losses of up to 20%.

MDV is currently controlled by vaccination and over 20 billion vaccine doses are administered worldwide each year. But the technologies currently available for creating the vaccines are difficult and time consuming.

Now scientists at the Pirbright Institute have developed a new, faster and more accurate gene editing technique. They say it can be used to produce a vaccine much more quickly and easily – with the potential to deliver multi-million pound savings for the poultry sector.

Turkey virus

Yongxiu Yao, a senior scientist at Pirbright, said genetically engineering turkey herpes virus in this way had unlocked its potential to protect against all strains of Marek’s disease virus – as well as other dangerous avian viruses such as bird flu, which was also a danger to humans.

Dr Yao explained: “More cost effective and efficient vaccines will help protect both avian and human health and potentially deliver major social and economic benefits in the UK and around the world.”

Pirbright is now in talks with poultry vaccine companies about exploiting the development commercially. The research was carried out in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Findings were published in the International Journal of Vaccines and Technologies.