Researchers at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph are studying how to help chickens’ immune systems defend against attack by strains of avian influenza.
Professor Dr. Shayan Sharif and his team are looking at how to manipulate Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs) – molecules that trigger rapid immune responses – to better protect poultry against the often-deadly virus. PAMPs can be administered to poultry flocks in a spray form. The micro-droplets are inhaled by the birds, and proceed through their respiratory and gastrointestinal systems on the same path as an avian flu virus.
PAMPs that induce a rapid immune response in poultry could prevent future outbreaks of avian flu by providing immunity more quickly than current vaccines. It can be a matter of life or death for humans as well as chickens – since virulent strains can easily migrate to the human population and cause pandemics.
Dr. Sharif leads the Poultry Health and Research Network, a network of over 50 poultry experts who address issues involving disease, nutrition, welfare, food safety and environmental impact in the poultry industry.