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Vaccine. 2012 Jun 22;30(30):4524-31. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.04.033. Epub 2012 Apr 22.

Prophylactic treatment with Toll-like receptor ligands enhances host immunity to avian influenza virus in chickens.

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Department of Pathobiology, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada.


Avian influenza viruses (AIV) pose a threat towards the health of both poultry and humans. To interrupt the transmission of the virus, novel prophylactic strategies must be considered which may reduce the shedding of AIV. One potential is the prophylactic use of Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands. Many cells of the immune system express TLRs, and cellular responses to TLR stimulation include activation and the production of cytokines. TLR ligands have been employed as prophylactic treatments to enhance host resistance to pathogens both in mammals and chickens. Therefore, the present study was conducted to determine whether TLR ligands may be used prophylactically in chickens to enhance host immunity to AIV. Chickens received intramuscular injections of either low or high doses of the TLR ligands poly I:C, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and CpG ODN. Twenty-four hours post-treatment, chickens were infected with the low pathogenic avian influenza virus H4N6, and both oropharyngeal and cloacal virus shedding were assessed on days 4 and 7 post-infection. To identify potential correlates of immunity, spleen and lungs were collected on days 2, 4 and 7 post-infection for RNA extraction. The results suggested that all of the TLR ligand treatments induced a significant reduction in virus shedding, with the TLR3 ligand poly I:C conferring the greatest AIV immunity compared to control birds, followed by CpG ODN and LPS. Furthermore, transcriptional analysis of gene expression in the spleen and lungs suggest IFN-α and IL-8 as correlates of immunity conferred by poly I:C, and IFN-γ for CpG ODN and LPS. In conclusion, TLR ligands, have the ability to enhance host immunity against AIV, and future studies should consider exploring the combinatory effects of poly I:C and CpG ODN prophylaxis in conjunction with AIV vaccination.

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