DUTCH researchers have begun a field trial of vaccination against avian influenza – a first for the country.

1,800 day-old layer chicks have been vaccinated in the trial, which will run on two farms until the third quarter of 2025.

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Previous lab studies found two vector vaccines to be effective against spreading HPAI, and these two will be trialled.

The country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) commissioned the work, which will be undertaken by Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Royal GD (Animal Health Service), and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University to investigate whether these two vaccines are effective.

At the start of the field trial, birds will be divided into several test groups.

Effectiveness

Several birds from the field trial will be tested in the laboratory under controlled conditions to investigate the effectiveness against infection at regular intervals.

During the trial, the chickens will be intensively monitored and controlled in line with new European regulations. The produce from the vaccinated chickens will not be marketed.

This field trial will assess how effective the vaccines are outside the laboratory, with the variability of a poultry farm’s climate and the interaction of other vaccines and potential pathogens.

Prevent spread

The trial needs to demonstrate protection against both disease symptoms and also prevent the spread of AI.

WUR said the first results would be in the second quarter of 2024, and if successful, a broader pilot will take place on more farms.

Another element will be establishing a suitable surveillance scheme to detect infection on a vaccinated farm and then take measures to prevent further spread.

Minister Adema, of the Dutch LNV, said: “Avian flu is a serious disease that has affected the poultry sector enormously, it affects both the animals and the farmers, and of course, many wild birds have also died because of it.

“We are therefore taking action together to reduce the number of infections in poultry.”