Independent poultry veterinarian Dr Haroldo Toro warned a packed IPPE breakfast meeting that AI virus may survive in chicken feed, especially when protected by organic material such as feces, and wipe out entire flocks.
Dr Toro, Professor with Auburn University’s Department of Pathobiology, Alabama, USA, told representatives of the industry’s leading layer, broiler and turkey sectors that finding AI in feed is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but “if it’s there, then birds will find it.”
Toro joined a panel of experts to consider the viability of feed as a vector for high path AI. He revealed results from the first phase of a research project exploring effects of feed treatment including pathogen control agent Termin-8 on AI. “We tested the viability of one strain of AI in feed after treatment with Termin-8. Under experimental conditions the product offered an extremely high level of AI virus inactivation (99.9%) within one hour,” he explained. “While there is still much to learn, initial results suggest that if AI is in feed, Termin-8 will effectively eradicate it.”
He was welcomed to the platform by poultry veterinarian and Anitox CEO Dr Rick Phillips, who cited lessons learned from PEDv among reasons for signing-off investment in Toro’s jointly funded Anitox/US Poultry and Egg Association project. “While there is no silver bullet, having studied the USDA report into risk of AI spread in contaminated corn, I’m personally convinced that feed has potential to play a part.”
Anitox Technical Director Dr Gino Lorenzoni agreed. A former student of Dr Toro, Lorenzoni is also a poultry veterinarian. “We might not have all the pieces of the jigsaw in place,” he explained, “but we have enough of a picture for me to be convinced feed should be treated as part of an effective biosecurity program.”
“We’re looking for multiple vectors. Migratory birds are widely accepted to be responsible for inter-continental and inter-state spread. The answer as to how individual farm biosecurity is being breached, though, is more complex. There are multiple mechanical vectors under the spotlight, with feed appearing on that list for two reasons. Firstly, migratory birds settle and shed on feed raw materials such as corn. Any protection normally offered by heat in the pelleting process is absent, as layers and turkeys are predominantly fed mash.
Dr Lorenzoni believes the pattern of clustered local incidence following an initial outbreak could be linked to the virus’s ability to survive in water sources, and the frequent transfer of passerines and vermin between water and stores of finished feed.
“We know small birds and rodents are efficient mechanical vectors, and that they are attracted to water and feed, effectively building a bridge between migratory birds and farmed poultry. Termin-8 has the potential to break that transmission route. While we’re in the early stages of confirming its residual impact on AI, our experience with Salmonella suggests we can protect the feed against recontamination for up to 21 days post pelleting.”
World Poultry Foundation CEO Randall Ennis opened the meeting, considering the impact of the virus on the US turkey, layer and broiler sectors in 2015. Ennis called for ever-greater cooperation between industry and commercial partners, citing the Anitox/US Poultry and Egg Association example of joint-sponsored research as progressive.