Vaccination of commercial broiler chicks against avian metapneumovirus infection: a comparison of drinking-water, spray and oculo-oral delivery methods.
Avian metapneumovirus (aMPV) has become an important cause of viral respiratory infections in turkey and chickens. Live and inactivated vaccinations are available worldwide for prevention of disease and economic losses caused by this pathogen. The efficacy of these vaccines is vigorously tested under laboratory conditions prior to use in the field. In this study, a live subtype B aMPV vaccine was administered by spray, drinking water or oculo-oral methods to separate groups of broiler chicks under field conditions. Following this, the chicks were immediately transferred to separate rooms in an experimental isolation house, monitored and challenged with virulent subtype B aMPV. No clinical signs were recorded following the vaccination methods. In the oculo-oral vaccinated chicks, 40-60% of the birds were vaccine virus positive by RT-PCR. In addition, in comparison to other groups, statistically higher levels of aMPV ELISA antibodies were detected. After spray vaccination, the number of chicks positive for the vaccine virus increased gradually from 10% at one week to 30% by 3 weeks post vaccination. Following drinking water vaccination, 30% of chicks were aMPV positive at 1 week but negative by 3 weeks post vaccination. In both, spray and drinking water vaccinated groups, no ELISA antibodies were detected, but when challenged all chicks were protected against disease. At 5 days post challenge, 100% of chicks in the unvaccinated and those vaccinated by spray or drinking water routes but only 20% of the oculo-oral-vaccinated chicks were aMPV positive by RT-PCR. At 10 days post challenge, 10% of chicks in each group were aMPV RT-PCR positive. On challenge, all vaccinated chicks were protected against disease. It appears that when aMPV vaccine is accurately applied to chicks by spray or drinking water routes, both are capable of giving protection against clinical disease equal to that induced in those chicks vaccinated individually by the oculo-oral route.