Avian flu: Vaccines tested in France on ducks are ‘very effective’

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To protect mule ducks bred for foie gras from the avian flu virus, two vaccines tested in France have proved to be “very effective”.

Two vaccines being tested in France against avian flu have proven “very effective” in protecting mule ducks, kept for foie gras, from the virus, the Anses health agency told AFP on Thursday, paving the way for a vaccination national. months.

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The “favorable results provide sufficient guarantees to start a vaccination campaign from autumn 2023”, for its part the French Ministry of Agriculture wrote on its website. The repetition and scale of crises related to avian flu (more than 20 million poultry slaughtered in 2021-2022 in France, already more than six million in 2022-23) have convinced European countries to imagine a vaccination strategy.

In France, an experiment was launched last year on two vaccine candidates for waterfowl, developed by the Boehringer Ingelheim and Ceva Santé Animale laboratories. European neighbors are testing the vaccines in other poultry species.

“Very good level of protection”

The French experiment involved a few hundred ducks, vaccinated or not, and killed at the end of the process. The virus currently circulating in France and around the world was inoculated into some of the ducks, previously vaccinated, to measure the amount of virus they excreted and whether they could still contaminate their congeners.

“Vaccination has made it possible to have very little excretion of the virus in the inoculated animals”, both by respiratory and digestive routes”, explained to AFP Béatrice Grasland, head of the ANSES national reference laboratory for avian flu.

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The two vaccines, with “very similar” results, also “almost stopped direct transmission” and “abolished” indirect transmission, by air. “It is very effective,” Me Grasland summarized, noting an “excellent level of protection” for vaccinated ducks “even in direct contact, in the same park, with the droppings” of infected ducks.

After a month-and-a-half break, the virus has re-spread since the beginning of May on dozens of farms in the south-west of the country. France plans to vaccinate ducks as a priority (such as Mulard but also Peking and Barbary – the latter bred rather for their meat) due to their “particular role” in the dynamics of the epizootic. Ducks are very sensitive to the virus and shed it into the environment even before showing symptoms, which contributes to the silent spread of bird flu.

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