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Immunization with subunits of a novel pilus produced by virulent Clostridium perfringens strains confers partial protection against necrotic enteritis in chickens

Lepp, D., Ojha, S., Mehdizadeh Gohari, I., Chakravarty, B., Prescott, J.F., Gong, J.
Veterinary microbiology 2019 v.230 pp. 7-13
Clostridium perfringens, Western blotting, anti-infective agents, antibodies, antigens, blood serum, broiler chickens, control methods, fimbriae, genes, intestines, loci, necrotic enteritis, poultry diseases, proteins, vaccination, virulence, North America
Necrotic enteritis (NE) is an economically important disease of broiler chickens that is caused primarily by Clostridium perfringens strains that produce the NetB toxin. It is controlled in North America principally through the application of in-feed antimicrobials, but alternative control methods, such as vaccination, are urgently needed. We previously identified a cluster of C. perfringens genes prevalent in disease-causing strains, denominated VR-10B, that is predicted to encode a pilus. The current study evaluated the ability of three predicted pilin structural subunits (CnaA, FimA, FimB) to protect against NE in two immunization studies. In the first study, young broiler chickens were immunized twice intramuscularly (i.m.) with CnaA or FimA, which resulted in only a weak serum antibody response, and no reduction in the severity of intestinal lesions following experimental challenge with C. perfringens strain CP1. In the second study, chickens were injected subcutaneously (s.c.) with CnaA, FimB, or a combination of all three proteins, on days 7, 14 and 19, which resulted in a marked antibody response specific to each antigen. Chickens immunized with either CnaA or FimB had significantly reduced NE lesion severity, whereas immunization with all three proteins in combination did not provide protection. Western blot experiments using serum from immunized birds were also performed, providing the first experimental evidence to suggest that this locus may in fact encode a functional pilus structure.