Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison have found a new way to control coccidiosis in poultry.
It holds great promise for the poultry industry which is bedevilled by coccidiosis that is antibiotic resistant.
The work focuses on a fundamental immune "off-switch" called Interleukin 10 or IL-10, manipulated by bacteria and many other pathogens to defeat the immune system during infection.
Mark Cook and animal sciences associate researcher Jordan Sand have learned to disable this switch inside the intestine, the site of major farm animal infections such as the diarrheal disease coccidiosis.
Cook vaccinates laying hens to create antibodies to IL-10. The hens put the antibody in eggs that are then sprayed on the feed of the animals he wants to protect.
The antibody neutralizes the IL-10 off-switch in those animals, allowing their immune systems to better fight disease.
In experiments with 300,000 chickens, those that ate the antibody-bearing material were fully protected against coccidiosis.
The research holds promise for controlling other bacterial diseases and infections.