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Campylobacter jejuni is the most common cause of bacterium-mediated diarrheal disease in humans worldwide. Poultry products are considered the most important source of C. jejuni infections in humans but to date no effective strategy exists to eradicate this zoonotic pathogen from poultry production. Here, the potential use of passive immunization to reduce Campylobacter colonization in broiler chicks was examined. For this purpose, laying hens were immunized with either a whole-cell lysate or the hydrophobic protein fraction of C. jejuni and their eggs were collected. In vitro tests validated the induction of specific ImmunoglobulinY (IgY) against C. jejuni in the immunized hens' egg yolks, in particular. In seeder experiments, preventive administration of hyperimmune egg yolk significantly (P < 0.01) reduced bacterial counts of seeder animals three days after oral inoculation with approximately 104 cfu C. jejuni, compared with control birds. Moreover, transmission to non-seeder birds was dramatically reduced (hydrophobic protein fraction) or even completely prevented (whole-cell lysate). Purified IgY promoted bacterial binding to chicken intestinal mucus, suggesting enhanced mucosal clearance in vivo. Western blot analysis in combination with mass spectrometry after two-dimensional gel-electrophoresis revealed immunodominant antigens of C. jejuni that are involved in a variety of cell functions, including chemotaxis and adhesion. Some of these (AtpA, EF-Tu, GroEL and CtpA) are highly conserved proteins and could be promising targets for the development of subunit vaccines.
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