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Published by: Bryan Nicoll on Nov 06, 2012
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Current approaches to MG control
Mycoplasma gallisepticum
(MG) is one of the lead-ing causes of economic loss to the poultry industryworldwide. The disease affects primarily chickens andturkeys, causing respiratory infections and airsacculitis,as well as egg production drops. The global expansionof the commercial poultry industry has resulted ingreater concentrations of susceptible birds in poultry-producing areas, increasing the risk and consequencesof MG infection. In the United States, most broiler andturkey production is MG negative. MG prevalence incommercial laying operations, however, is considerablyhigher, particularly on large multiple-age complexes. There are three general approaches to MG control:Prevention of infection is ideal, but in situations wherethis is not considered feasible (eg. multiple-age com-plexes), medication and/or vaccination are options. Inthis article, we discuss approaches to MG control, fo-cusing on the current situation in the United States. Wealso review recent findings related to the
performanceof F strain vaccines.
Control by prevention of infection
Prevention of infection is the optimum for MG control,because there is no way to reliably eliminate MG frominfected flocks. To maintain flocks free of MG, threeconditions must be met: replacement stock mustoriginate from an MG-free source, biosecurity must beexcellent, and the flocks must be regularly monitoredfor infection by approved testing methods (1).Since MG is transmitted through the egg, the par-ent flocks must be free of MG infection if negativeoffspring are to be raised. Most breeding companieshave eliminated MG from primary breeding stock (1).Prevention of infection at the multiplier level may beless stringent, however. In the United States, most inte-grators opt to cull breeder flocks that become infectedwith MG. Retaining infected flocks will likely result inestablished MG infection on the farm, and will alsocreate a biosecurity risk for other farms in the area.Biosecurity measures are essential to prevent theintroduction of MG onto clean premises, as well as thespread of MG from infected premises. The risks, as wellas the consequences of disease introduction due tobiosecurity breaches are increasing as poultry produc-tion becomes more concentrated and farms increasein size, necessitating greater attention to biosecuritythan ever before. In designing biosecurity programs itis important to note that, while MG is not a particularlyhardy organism, it is able to survive for several days inthe environment (2).Regular testing of MG-clean flocks by sensitive testsis important to enable early detection of disease andcontainment of infection. In the United States, theNational Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) (3) coordi-nates national programs for the monitoring and con-trol of MG in chicken and turkey breeding flocks andhatcheries. The plan requires that participant flocks beregularly tested by serology and culture or PCR, usingapproved methods.
Volume 3, 2012
 To maintainflocks freeof MG, threeconditionsmust be met:replacementstock mustoriginate froman MG-freesource, bio-security mustbe excellent,and the flocksmust be regu-larly monitoredfor infection byapproved test-ing methods.
Current approaches to MG control,
Notes from the CEO,
Natalie K. Armour,
Naola Ferguson-Noel,
Control by medication
 The primary goal of medication is to reduceclinical signs, lesions, egg production dropsand transmission of MG from infected birds(1). Antibiotic medication cannot be reliedupon to eliminate MG from an infected flock.In addition, considering the risk of antibioticresistance development with continued use,as well as the widespread pressure to reducethe use of antibiotics in food-producinganimals, antibiotic medication should not beseen as a long-term solution to MG control.Since Mycoplasmas lack a cell wall, they areresistant to antibiotics which inhibit cell wallsynthesis, such as penicillin (4). They are,however, generally sensitive to macrolides,tetracyclines, fluoroquinolones and someother antibiotics. In the United States, fluoro-quinolones and tilmicosin are not approvedfor use in poultry, and macrolides and tetra-cyclines are most commonly used to controlMG infections (1).
Control by vaccination
MG vaccines are used to provide protectionagainst respiratory disease, egg productiondrops and egg transmission, and, in somecases, to displace virulent field strains withattenuated vaccine strains (5). Live vaccines,as well as inactivated oil-emulsion bacterinsand a fowlpox-MG recombinant vaccine areavailable for MG control.
Bacterins have been shown
tobe effective at protecting against eggproduction losses and egg transmission,and, in some cases, at reducing respiratorydisease and airsacculitis associated with MGinfection, although results have not beenconsistent (1, 5). Bacterins are generally lesseffective than live vaccines at preventingcolonization of the respiratory tract by fieldstrains. The advantage of bacterins is thatthey allow immunization without the risk of introducing live MG organisms (1, 5). In somecountries, MG bacterins are used togetherwith live vaccines in attempts to improve MGcontrol, although this practice is not commonin the United States.
Live vaccines.
 Three live MG vaccines are cur-rently licensed for use in the United States,and are widely used internationally: F strain(Poulvac® Myco F, Pfizer and AviPro® MG F,Lohmann Animal Health); 6/85 (Mycovac-L®,Merck Animal Health); and TS-11 (MG TS-11,Merial (USA) and Vaxsafe®MG, Bioproperties,Ltd.). These vaccines differ in terms of theirimmunogenicity and virulence; character-istics which appear to be inversely relatedfor MG (5-7). Although there are antigenicdifferences between different MG strains,there is no evidence that these differencesinfluence the protection afforded by the cur-rently available vaccines (5).F strain-derived vaccines have been usedextensively, and have demonstrated efficacyin the prevention of respiratory signs, airsac-culitis, egg production drops and egg trans-mission of MG (1, 5). F strain persists in theupper respiratory tract for the life of the flock,and is capable of displacing virulent field MGstrains from infected flocks (4). While F strainvaccines are relatively mild in chickens, theyare pathogenic in turkeys (4). F strain canbe transmitted through the egg, and lateraltransmission has also been reported (1, 4, 8).In the United States, there has recently beena trend towards increased usage of F strainvaccines on multiple-age laying sites experi-encing significant MG challenge. TS-11 and 6/85 represent milder vaccinationapproaches to MG control. Both vaccineshave demonstrated efficacy at the preven-tion of MG-associated respiratory diseaseand egg production drops (5). They elicit littleto no post-vaccination reactions, are poorlytransmissible, and do not negatively affectegg production (1, 7). After vaccination, TS-11persists for life in the upper respiratory tract,while the persistence of 6/85 is limited (4).In comparison with TS-11 and 6/85, F strainprovided greater protection against airsaclesions and respiratory colonization by thechallenge strain (7). In another trial, F strain,but not TS-11 or 6/85, displaced a virulentMG field strain from infected birds (9). TS-11,however, was reported to displace F strain ina program which resulted in the eradicationof MG from an affected farm (10).
Recombinant vaccines.
A recombinant MGvaccine, comprised of a fowlpox virus vectorexpressing MG antigens (Vectormune® FP-MG, Ceva Biomune) has been recently intro-duced. Like bacterins, recombinant fowlpox-MG (rFP-MG) vaccines do not introduce liveMG organisms into vaccinated flocks, andare thus considered a safe alternative to livevaccines. The rFP-MG vaccine does not elicit aserological response, allowing differentiationof vaccinated and infected flocks. There arecurrently no published reports demonstrat-ing the ability of this vaccine to protectagainst virulent MG challenge.
Current studies with commercial F strainvaccines
Recently, the efficacy of a commercial Fstrain vaccine was compared with that of abacterin and a rFP-MG vaccine in laying hensin the face of virulent MG R strain challenge(11). In addition to scoring air sac lesions andtracheal mucosal thickness, ovaries wereexamined for evidence of regression, andscored as “normal” (Fig. 1), “regressed” (Fig.2) or “immature”. Both the F strain and thebacterin effectively protected the respiratoryand reproductive tracts against challenge,when compared with the non-vaccinatedcontrols and the rFP-MG vaccinated group.
Figure 1. Normal ovarian follicles of a matureegg-laying henFigure 2. Ovarian regression
Protection was evidenced by significant re-ductions in air sac lesion scores (Fig. 3), ovar-ian regression (Fig. 4) and tracheal mucosalthickness (Fig. 5) in the F strain and bacterinvaccinated groups. Air sac lesion scores andtracheal mucosal thickness measurements
were numerically lower in the F strain groupcompared with the bacterin group after chal-lenge, although these differences were notstatistically significant.In other recently published work, Evans etal. (12) evaluated the ability of different dilu-tions of two commercially available F strainvaccines and a high passage laboratory-derived F strain to elicit seroconversion, andto protect commercial layers from R strainchallenge. A positive correlation betweenthe rate of seroconversion (assessed byserum plate agglutination) and the dosagelevel of vaccine was observed, supportingprevious findings by this group (13). For allF strain derivatives, 100% of the birds in the1x dose and 10
x dose vaccinated groupswere positive by serology and PCR at 6weeks post vaccination (wk p.v.). Vaccinationefficacy was assessed by protection againstthe development of airsacculitis lesions afterR strain challenge at 7 wk p.v. One hundredpercent of birds vaccinated with each of theF strain derivatives were protected at the1x and 10
x vaccine dosages, with reducedprotection evidenced by airsacculitis lesionsat lower dosages.
1. Kleven, S.H. Control of avian mycoplasmainfections in commercial poultry. Avian dis-eases 52:367-374. 2008.2. Christensen, N.H., C.A. Yavari, A.J. McBain,and J.M. Bradbury. Investigations into thesurvival of Mycoplasma gallisepticum, Myco-plasma synoviae and Mycoplasma iowae onmaterials found in the poultry house environ-ment. Avian pathology : journal of the W.V.P.A23:127-143. 1994.3. Anonymous. National Poultry Improve-ment Plan and Auxiliary Provisions. In.U.S.D.o.A.A.a.P.H.I. Service, ed., Washington,DC. 2009.4. Ley, D.H. Mycoplasma gallisepticum infec-tion. In: Diseases of Poultry 12th ed. J.R.Glisson, Y. M. Saif, A. M. Fadly, L. R. McDougald,L. K. Nolan, and D. E. Swayne, ed. BlackwellPublishing, Ames, IA. pp 807-834. 2008.5. Whithear, K.G. Control of avian mycoplas-moses by vaccination. Rev Sci Tech 15:1527-1553. 1996.6. Lin, M.Y., and S.H. Kleven. Evaluation of attenuated strains of Mycoplasma gallisep-ticum as vaccines in young chickens. Aviandiseases 28:88-99. 1984.7. Abd-el-Motelib, T.Y., and S.H. Kleven A com-parative study of Mycoplasma gallisepticumvaccines in young chickens. Avian diseases37:981-987. 1993.8. Gharaibeh, S., V. Laibinis, R. Wooten, L.Stabler, and N. Ferguson-Noel Molecularcharacterization of Mycoplasma gallisep-ticum isolates from Jordan. Avian diseases55:212-216. 2011.9. Kleven, S.H., H.H. Fan, and K.S. Turner Pentrial studies on the use of live vaccines todisplace virulent Mycoplasma gallisepticumin chickens. Avian diseases 42:300-306. 1998.10. Turner, K.S., and S.H. Kleven Eradicationof live F strain mycoplasma gallisepticumvaccine using live ts-11 on a multiage com-mercial layer farm. Avian diseases 42:404-407. 1998.11. Ferguson-Noel, N., K. Cookson, V.A. Laibinis,and S.H. Kleven The efficacy of three com-mercial Mycoplasma gallisepticum vaccinesin laying hens. Avian diseases 56:272-275.2012.12. Evans, J.D., S.A. Leigh, J.L. Purswell, R. Jacob,E.D. Peebles, S.D. Collier, and S.L. BrantonA comparative study of live attenuated Fstrain-derived Mycoplasma gallisepticumvaccines. Avian diseases 56:396-401. 2012.13. Purswell, J.L., J.D. Evans, and S.L. BrantonSerologic response of roosters to gradientdosage levels of a commercially available liveF strain-derived Mycoplasma gallisepticumvaccine over time. Avian diseases 55:490-494.2011.
We are grateful to Dr. Stephen Collett for theconcept that biosecurity measures reduceboth the risks and the consequences of dis-ease introduction.
Figure 3. Air sac lesion scores (scale 0 to 4)following R strain challengeFigure 4. Ovarian regression (%) followingR strain challengeFigure 5. Tracheal mucosal thickness (
m)following R strain challenge

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