Egg yolk loaded with antibodies boosts poultry's immunity

Jul 10, 2012 By Sandra Avant
Egg yolk loaded with antibodies boosts poultry's immunity
Chicks can be fed antibodies extracted from hyperimmune egg yolks from pathogen-free hens as an antibiotic-free way to protect them from coccidiosis while potentially helping to fight the development of drug-resistant strains. Credit: Photo courtesy of APHIS-USDA

Hyperimmune egg yolk antibodies can be used to help control intestinal diseases in poultry, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

The antibiotic-free technology involves extracting antibodies from egg yolks from pathogen-free hens or female that have been hyperimmunized—injected with a vaccine that contains inactivated pathogenic organisms. Hyperimmunized birds have a greater-than-normal immunity and produce a large amount of antibodies.

Avian immunologist Hyun Lillehoj at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., partnered with ARS colleagues, university scientists and collaborators from the Mexican company IASA (Investigacíon Aplicada, S.A.) on the studies. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

The group demonstrated the effectiveness of inducing passive immunity in young birds, which have no immune protection right after hatching, against coccidiosis, a devastating poultry disease.

Birds affected by coccidiosis are unable to absorb feed or gain weight. The disease costs the poultry industry more than $600 million in the United States and about $3 billion worldwide each year.

Treatments used to reduce the spread of disease include good management practices and live vaccinations. However, antibiotic-free alternatives are important to help fight drug-resistant strains and for organic poultry farmers, according to Lillehoj.

In the study, one-day-old chickens were given feed mixed with spray-dried egg yolk powder prepared from hens hyperimmunized with multiple species of the parasite Eimeria, which causes coccidiosis. The chickens were then exposed to live coccidia parasites. Chickens that had received the hyperimmune egg yolk antibodies gained more weight and shed significantly fewer Eimeria in their feces. The treated birds also had less gut lesions than chickens that did not receive the treatment.

A commercial product that helps control coccidiosis has been developed by a private company based on results of this research. In the future, similar methods may be used to help prevent other harmful diseases.

Explore further: The clock is ticking: New method reveals exact time of death after 10 days

More information: Read more about this research in the July 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Related Stories

Treating poultry diseases without antibiotics

May 30, 2012

Identifying antimicrobial proteins in chickens that kill pathogens is one method being used by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists to find alternatives to the use of antibiotics to control infectious ...

What's more helpful: The chicken or the egg?

Dec 23, 2011

Success for Dr. Hoon Sunwoo can be traced back to a research project that began in the 1990’s and is perpetuated through his latest research benefiting the livestock industry.

Newcastle disease gets new vaccine

Jan 14, 2011

A new vaccine for Newcastle disease (ND) in poultry has been developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Athens, Ga. Using reverse genetics technology, the new vaccine is made from part ...

New technique used to discover new viruses in poultry

May 18, 2012

In a search to find better ways to control viral enteric diseases in birds, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have unearthed a treasure trove of previously known and unknown viruses in poultry ...

Recommended for you

Shark's unique trek could help save the species

4 hours ago

Her name is Jiffy Lube2, a relatively small shortfin mako shark that, like others of her kind, swims long distances every day in search of prey and comfortable water temperatures.

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

Jul 03, 2015

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

The math of shark skin

Jul 03, 2015

"Sharks are almost perfectly evolved animals. We can learn a lot from studying them," says Emory mathematician Alessandro Veneziani.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.