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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Characterization of Protective Host Responses to Avian Influenza Virus Infections in Avian Species

Location: Exotic & Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
1. Conduct comparative immunology studies of avian species to determine variations in protective innate defense mechanisms to avian influenza infections. 2. Characterize humoral and cellular immune responses to avian influenza viruses and identify epitopes associated with immunity. 3. Develop immunological reagents and methodologies to evaluate vaccine efficacy and protection.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
The project plan has three interrelated objectives that are designed to increase our basic understanding of the immunological response to avian influenza virus (AIV) infection in different avian species and will result in improved vaccine development. The first objectives initiate the characterization of host cytokine expression profiles from specific innate immune cells in vitro. These profiles will then be compared with cytokine profiles obtained from avian influenza (AI) infected tissues, in vivo, for a better understanding of the overall innate immune response to avian influenza viruses (AIV). Innate immune cells will be isolated or produced for in vitro analysis from multiple sources, including: specific pathogen-free (SPF) White Leghorn (egg laying-type), SPF White Plymouth Rock (meat-type) chickens, and SPF Small Beltsville White SPF turkeys from the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory. In addition, some experiments will utilize commercial chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks or others as needed, as sources for primary cell culture. We have in-house supplies of SPF birds and eggs, which can be used for these studies. In addition, we also have access to major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-defined birds (Avian Disease Oncology Laboratory, East Lansing, MI) which can be used for immunogenetic comparison of cytokine responses within members of Gallus gallus species. Expected outcomes for this objective will be the determination of which cytokines and transcription factors contribute to a resistant phenotype of avian species to AIV. It may be likely that different profiles are determined for different bird species. Once innate immunity profiles have been established, the cellular and humoral immune responses that contribute to natural and vaccine-induced protection will be characterized. We will utilize chickens, turkeys, ducks and other bird species in these studies. Experiments in Objective 2 will determine antibody levels following infection and vaccination, identify cellular immune responses to homologous and heterologous AI isolates, and determine putative epitopes involved with immunity. We will specifically address: (1) the induction of anti-viral antibodies that correlates with protective efficacy, decreases in virus shedding, and provide cross-reactivity to homo- and heterosubtypic isolates, (2) the induction of cellular immunity in poultry and wild birds following infection or vaccination and challenge, (3) identify T-cell epitopes to the hemagglutinin and nucleoprotein proteins of AI. Finally, we will develop immunological reagents and methodologies to evaluate vaccine efficacy and protection. Besides the usual indicators of vaccine induced protection, including survival, or decreases in shedding, assays to determine why and how a particular vaccine induces immunological protection against challenge are lacking. By incorporating cytokines and toll-like receptor agonists into vaccine formulations, their contributions to humoral and cellular immunity can be evaluated. Finally, the extent of cross protective immunity developed in vaccinated birds will be examined by utilizing antigenic cartography.

3. Progress Report:
The Immunology project has been active both nationally and internationally to meet the objectives and milestones of the project. Accomplishments included; 1) the production and characterization of individual immune cell types to examine how they immunologically react to avian influenza, 2) the protection of poultry from highly pathogenic avian influenza through application of vaccines, and 3) the study of pathology and immune responses to avian influenza viruses and vaccines in different bird species. Collaborative research continues with national and international partners to continue to study the immune response of poultry to avian influenza. University partners include, but not limited to, the University of Georgia, the University of Delaware, the University of Arkansas, and the Ohio State University. Collaborative work with industry has included projects with CEVA Biomune, and Goldsboro Milling Company. Internationally, collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture, Office of International Research Programs and the All Russian Research Institute for Animal Health has continued to support the development of vaccines and immunology against avian influenza.

4. Accomplishments

Review Publications
Kapczynski, D.R., Pantin Jackwood, M.J., Guzman, S.G., Ricardez, Y., Spackman, E., Bertran, K., Suarez, D.L., Swayne, D.E. 2013. Characterization of the 2012 highly pathogenic avian influenza H7N3 virus isolated from poultry in an outbreak in Mexico: pathobiology and vaccine protection. Journal of Virology. 87(16):9086-9096. Available:

Kapczynski, D.R., Afonso, C.L., Miller, P.J. 2013. Immune responses of poultry to newcastle disease virus. Developmental and Comparative Immunology. 41(3):447-453. Available:

Faulkner, O.B., Estevez, C., Yu, Q., Suarez, D.L. 2013. Passive antibody transfer in chickens to model maternal antibody after avian influenza vaccination. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 152(3-4):341-347.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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