A study in the U.K. that looks at a protein found in poultry that can control macrophage numbers has been given a grant of GBP951,944 (US$1.4 million).

Scientists at the country’s Roslin Institute will look at how the protein, known as CSF-1, can induce changes in the growth and development of the immune system, and test the possibility that it could improve both innate disease resistance, and the efficacy of existing and future vaccines.

The researchers will also use genomic technologies to find evidence of genetic variation in the functions of macrophages that could provide the basis for breeding birds with improved resistance to common pathogens.

The funding has been granted by the BBSRC, an academic research and training funding body, and the Scottish government, and forms part of a an almost GBP7 million initiative to support research into diseases affecting poultry, farmed fish, sheep, pigs and cattle.

Better IBV vaccine understanding

Also included in the grant giving round is funding for a project that will look at infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which will be carried out by the Pirbright Institute.

The BBSRC notes that, while effective and economically viable vaccines against IBV are available, multiple combinations of vaccines are required due to the level of cross-protection that is needed against the various IBV strains.

Using novel “epitope fingerprinting” technology to determine the epitopes that are recognized by antibodies induced after infection, researchers will determine why certain vaccines do not induce cross protection, and how current vaccines may be used more efficiently.

In addition, the researchers will determine how pressure on the virus from the bird’s immune responses might drive the virus to change or mutate.

It is hoped that the results from the research will provide knowledge for the subsequent development of efficient cross-protective vaccines.