Arkansas scientists seek vaccine for lameness-causing bacterial disease

Help may soon be at hand for broiler flocks suffering from lameness caused by bacterial disease.

A study at the University of Arkansas aims to develop and test a vaccine that incorporates five bacterial species that usually cause bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis — a major economic and welfare issue for the poultry industry.

The work, which is supported by an $80,000 award from the USPOULTRY Foundation, aims to reduce effects of the disease, which can also cause bird condemnation at market age.

“There have been no successful vaccines to reduce the incidence of bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis lameness in the US. Therefore, there is a critical need to develop a vaccine to reduce the financial and health impact of the issue on the poultry industry,” said Adnan Alrubaye, PhD, the assistant professor who will lead the project.

Mapping progression

The disease-causing bacteria usually enter the bird through breathing contaminated air and through the digestive system. It gathers in the leg bones of the chicken, which eventually leads to lameness.

“There are many pathogenic bacterial species in the aerosol of chicken houses that can be inhaled by broiler chickens and leak from the respiratory system to the blood and eventually colonize the growth plate of long bones, causing lameness,” Alrubaye said. “Similarly, bacterial species ingested with the diet can leak from the gastrointestinal tract to the bloodstream.”

The research team hopes to create a vaccine that prevents up to five bacterial species from causing bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis, beginning by studying the progression of disease.

“We don’t know the approximate timing for when the bacteria start leaking from the respiratory system or the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream,” Alrubaye said.

“We also don’t know the main organs that harbor the bacterial species causing bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis lameness. Understanding the pathogenesis of it is essential to developing a targeted mitigation approach to help reduce the incidence of bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis lameness in broiler chickens.”

Reducing lameness

The hope is that developing a multispecies vaccine for the disease will reduce lameness by 50% or more.

“The broiler is produced in 53 of Arkansas’s 75 counties and results in approximately 1 billion broilers annually, valued at $2.82 billion per year,” Alrubaye said.

“Typical incidences of lameness run from 1% to 5%, but during episodic outbreaks, lameness can exceed 10% to 15%, with losses of hundreds of birds per day. Developing a vaccine would be an excellent benefit for the poultry industry and could significantly curtail bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis outbreaks.”

Posted on: September 14, 2023

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Help may be on the way for broiler flocks suffering from lameness caused by bacterial disease, with a new vaccine being developed and tested at the University of Arkansas as part of a project led by Adnan Alrubaye, PhD.

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