Background Currently, Asian lineage highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has become widespread across continents. These viruses are persistently circulating among poultry populations in endemic regions, causing huge economic losses, and raising concerns about an H5N1 pandemic. To control HPAI H5N1, effective vaccines for poultry are urgently needed.
Objective In this study, we developed HPAI virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine as a candidate poultry vaccine and evaluated its protective efficacy and possible application for differentiating infected from vaccinated animals (DIVA).
Methods Specific pathogen-free chickens received a single injection of HPAI H5N1 VLP vaccine generated using baculovirus expression vector system. Immunogenicity of VLP vaccines was determined using hemagglutination inhibition (HI), neuraminidase inhibition (NI), and ELISA test. Challenge study was performed to evaluate efficacy of VLP vaccines.
Results and Conclusions A single immunization with HPAI H5N1 VLP vaccine induced high levels of HI and NI antibodies and protected chickens from a lethal challenge of wild-type HPAI H5N1 virus. Viral excretion from the vaccinated and challenged group was strongly reduced compared with a mock-vaccinated control group. Furthermore, we were able to differentiate VLP-vaccinated chickens from vaccinated and then infected chickens with a commercial ELISA test kit, which offers a promising strategy for the application of DIVA concept.