Srinagar: Scientists at Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) have cracked the code and are set to develop radical vaccines against Avian Coronavirus (Infectious Bronchitis virus) and Infectious bursal disease virus that affect poultry.
Official data suggests that Kashmir imports around 5.5 crore chickens from Haryana and Punjab. It is estimated that poultry traders in Punjab supply over half a million eggs and 40,000 to 50,000 chickens per day to J&K.
However, faced with the recurring problem of the debilitating avian flu and other viruses, the sector is vulnerable to huge losses.
To make vaccines resistant to mutation, scientists at the Animal Biotechnology division in SKUAST- Kashmir, have embarked on research to refine vaccines against Avian Coronavirus and Bursal Disease Virus.
“The research work at the laboratory is focused on the development of safe vaccines against economically- important poultry viruses viz Avian Coronavirus or Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV) and Infectious Bursal disease virus (IBDV),” said Nadeem Shabir, Assistant Professor at Division of Animal Biotechnology SKAUST-K.
Nadeem said most of the viral diseases in poultry and livestock are controlled with live attenuated vaccines. “Live attenuated vaccines are produced by cultivating the virus in a cell line other than of the host which it attacks or in chicken embryos. This ensures that its pathogenic nature is weakened but its ability to induce immune response is retained,” he said.
He said in simpler terms, it means that the live-attenuated vaccine can turn into a live virus and therefore, can cause the disease in chickens rather than protecting them against the virus.
“Our research is primarily focused on addressing this issue of reversion to virulence of live vaccines. The availability of safe vaccines can significantly reduce the economic impact caused by vaccine failures or safety issues of the vaccine on small and large scale poultry farmers,” Nadeem said.
The research, he emphasized, has some good leads regarding the development of a safer vaccine against the virus and the project is about to be completed.
“We are now in the testing phase and would further test these findings in an animal trial. Regarding the vaccine development against avian Coronavirus which is a project funded by Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance, we are still working on that. It is a five-year project and will end by 2024,” he said.
Moreover, the vaccines in development are likely to have no adverse effect on human health. “Both IBV and IBDV are non-zoonotic and therefore, the live attenuated vaccines derived from these viruses do not pose any threats to human health,” Nadeem said.
Besides, the IBDV vaccine project has been funded by the Science and Engineering Research Board, Government of India under the early career research award scheme while the avian coronavirus project is funded by the Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance under the Early Career Fellowship scheme.
In January, Jammu and Kashmir had banned the import of poultry after the Centre issued advisories about avian influenza.
The Avian Influenza is a highly contagious viral disease — with mild as well as fatal strains — among birds and poultry birds such as chickens are susceptible to it. The virus has many strains. Some of them are mild, but others can be fatal.