The poultry industry constitutes a significant sector of world agriculture. In the United States, more than 8 billion birds are produced yearly with a value exceeding $20 billion. Broiler chickens are the largest segment of the industry. Birds raised under commercial conditions are vulnerable to environmental exposure to a number of pathogens. Therefore, disease prevention by vaccination is an integral part of flock health management protocols. Active immunization using live vaccines is the current industry standard. Routinely used vaccines in chickens include MDV, NDV, IBV, and IBDV, and in turkeys NDV and HEV. Newer vaccines, including molecular recombinants in which genes of immunogenic proteins from infectious agents are inserted into a live viral vector, are also being examined for commercial use. Efforts are under way to enhance vaccine efficacy by the use of adjuvants, particularly cytokines. The vaccine delivery systems include in ovo injection, aerosol, spray, drinking water, eye drop, and wing web injection. The in ovo vaccination procedure is relatively new and at the present time it is used primarily to vaccinate broiler chickens against MDV. Birds respond to vaccines by developing humoral and cellular immune responses. Bursa of Fabricius and the thymus serve as the primary lymphoid organs of the immune system. B cells use surface immunoglobulins as antigen receptors and differentiate into plasma cells to secrete antibodies. Three classes of antibodies are produced: IgM, IgG (also called IgY), and IgA. Successful vaccinal response in a flock is often monitored by demonstrating a rise in antibody titer within a few days of vaccination. ELISA is used most commonly for serologic monitoring. T cells are the principal effector cells of specific cellular immunity. T cells differentiate into αβ and γδ cells. In adult birds, γδ cells may constitute up to 50% of the circulating T cells. Functionally, CD4+ cells serve as helper cells and CD8+ cells as cytotoxic/suppressor cells.
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