Arctic bacteria eyed for salmonella vaccine in chickens

Genes from bacteria found in Arctic waters are being studied for their use in breeding vaccines to prevent a common foodborne illness in chickens.

Francis Nano, a microbiologist at the University of Victoria, has picked up "proof of concept" funding from Genome BC to harvest Arctic bacteria and use a gene from the bugs to replace an "essential gene" in a salmonella bacterium.

This process is expected to create a modified bacterium that can’t survive in a warm environment such as the tissues of a warm-blooded animal, the university said in a release Friday.

Used as a vaccine, the genetically modified temperature-sensitive bacterium would immunize the recipient, UVic said.

"Using Arctic genes, we can create bacterial pathogens that behave like vaccines, much like the many temperature-sensitive viruses that are used as vaccines," Nano said in the university’s release. "We can apply this same approach to develop new vaccines against many diseases of humans and animals."

Nano and his team aim to produce a cost-effective vaccine that would cut down the carriage of salmonella among poultry and prevent its spread to humans.

They also plan to develop vaccines against other pathogens that cause diseases in animals and humans. A patent application has been filed to protect this "platform technology," UVic said.

The bacterium targeted in this case, salmonella enterica, causes one of the most common foodborne illnesses in the world and turns up about 10,000 reported cases in Canada per year, the university said.

Vaccinating animals against various diseases has begun to play an "important role" in global food security, UVic said, "especially as the overuse of antimicrobial drugs has led to a rise in drug resistance."

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