HIPRA digitalise the animal vaccination process with Watson IoT technology in the cloud of IBM

The service is already available for veterinarians and farmers worldwide. 


Madrid – 29 sep 2016: IBM and HIPRA have announced an agreement to integrate the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that are available in the IBM cloud with animal vaccination   This Technology allows HIPRA to be in the forefront of the Animal Health market. HIPRA name this new world as “the Smart Vaccination” concept, and they are the pioneers in developing this new concept in Animal Health.  

The Smart Vaccination concept is a turning point and there will be a new era after the IoT arrival to animal farming. The Smart Vaccination is a new world where HIPRA vaccines are connected to HIPRA’s Medical Devices and HIPRAlink (HIPRA’s software) to offer vets and farmers a new world of services and benefits for the Prevention of diseases.

Can Eimeria vaccines replace anticoccidials for the prevention of coccidiosis in poultry farming?

Coccidiosis – due to parasites of the genus Eimeria – is one of the most devastating diseases in poultry: a disease which has always being present in every poultry flock since the first chick appeared on the earth; in fact, Eimeria is an ever-present parasite that it is impossible to eradicate. For this reason, a coccidiosis prevention strategy needs to be put in place for each batch of chickens that arrives on a farm. Worldwide losses due to coccidiosis in poultry are estimated to be around US$1.5 billion/year.

From the 1950s the use of some chemical molecules has been implemented to prevent the effects of the several Eimeria species that cause the disease. Whereas the use of vaccines is quite commune in breeders, only between 5 and 6% of broilers in the world are actually vaccinated instead of being treated with anticoccidials.

The prevention of coccidiosis in poultry with some Eimeria vaccines is absolutely safe and efficacious as also demonstrated recently by Alameda et al. 2015 and Ronsmans et al. 2015. So the question is, why is the prevention of coccidiosis with the vaccines available not more widely used around the world? In this post I will try to answer this question from several perspectives.
The first important question to answer is whether or not it is possible. The answer is clearly yes it is. The entire production of breeders, free-range or organic chickens and a percentage of the industrial production of broilers are produced today without the use of anticoccidials. So, the first thing to take into account is the willingness of broiler producers to do it.
The second question is the cost. Some people think that vaccines are more expensive than anticoccidials, but this is not always true. It depends on the duration of fattening of the broiler, the anticoccidial programme used and, of course, on the quality of the final broiler produced, whether or not it is free of anticoccidials.
The third question is management. Some producers think that the use of anticoccidials in the feed is much simpler than vaccination. But it is not well known that the use of anticoccidials in the feed could potentially lead to cross-contamination in the feed mill, especially when the plant produces feed for more than one animal species. This could be the case with salinomycin in turkeys: salinomycin is one ionophore widely used in broiler feed as an anticoccidial, whereas it is well known that it is very toxic for turkeys, even at levels lower than therapeutic ones (Potter et al. 1986). Moreover, it has to be recalled that nowadays the administration of Eimeria vaccines is becoming more and more practical and standardised as most of the applications – especially for broilers – are performed in the hatchery with spraying devices that have been designed for this specific use, like Hipraspray®.
Finally, there is another important question to answer which is whether the availability of vaccines would be sufficient to replace anticoccidials completely. The answer to this question is not easy. Of course companies producing Eimeria vaccines do not produce sufficient quantities at present, because there is no need for it. However, if broiler production in the world started to demand Eimeria vaccines, there’s no reason to think that given time, the companies would not have a sufficient amount of vaccines available.
Eimeria vaccines have a short shelf-life, so they have to be manufactured in response to demand because they cannot be stored for more than a few months. But, again, this is not a very important problem due to the fact that the modern poultry production system is so industrialized that vaccinations can be planned easily and with a long notice period. For this reason, the production of vaccines can be easily planned and in the most accurate way.

Coccidiosis in chickens: the role of subclinical species of Eimeria

The fight against coccidiosis in chickens means the adoption of different strategies depending of the type of bird. If we are managing long life cycle birds, we have to pay special attention to clinical Eimeria species that are able to generate a real coccidiosis process with macroscopic lesions and symptoms that will reduce the healthy status of the birds and will compromise the development of immunity against other diseases or cause the death of the birds.

However, when we are rearing standard, certified or even free-range broilers, the focus needs to be a different one. In these cases it will be difficult to find real clinical coccidiosis. Otherwise, the “silent” species – such as Eimeria praecox among others – will affect the intestinal mucosa and will reduce the capacity of a broiler for nutrient absorption. Dealing with subclinical species is essential in coccidiosis in chickens with a high growth rate.

For a long time, there was a trend to classify coccidiosis in chickens according to the age of the birds. It was considered that E. acervulina, E. maxima and E. tenella were species affecting all the birds. In the case of long life cycle birds such as breeders and layers, it was necessary to include E. necatrix and E. brunetti in the composition of vaccines against coccidiosis. Indeed, this is true for long life cycle birds because feed conversion and growth is important, but not the key point. In fact, these birds are reared under feed restriction.

The chicken intestine has a very important part that plays a main role in digestion and absorption of nutrients. This is the duodenum.
The duodenum is a part of the small intestine where the main digestive processes occur. The pancreas will provide digestive juices into the duodenum for protein digestion in particular and the liver (via the gall bladder) will produce the bile, a gastric juice involved in the digestion of lipids and absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. When we are treating coccidiosis in chickens –and more specifically in fattening broilers- it is essential to identify the species of Eimeria located in this part of the intestine.
E. acervulina, one of the most prevalent species in broilers, prefers this part of the intestine even if the level of infection is moderate. It is quite typical to find the white ladder-like spot lesions scattered and confined to the duodenum:

E. praecox is also located in the duodenum. For a long time, E. praecox was considered to be a non-pathogenic strain. After the studies by Williams et al. (2009), the pathogenicity of E. praecox was demonstrated. There are two facts to consider with regard to the damage caused by E. praecox in coccidiosis in chickens:

On the one hand, praecox causes microscopic damage in the cells of the duodenum. In infections with E. praecox oocysts (106) it is possible to see villus atrophy, crypt hyperplasia and increased leukocyte infiltration.
On the other hand, praecox modifies the viscosity of the liquids in the duodenum. In infections with E. praecox an increase in whitish mucus and non-digested feed is observed.

Finally, in other studies carried out by Répétant et al. 2011, the impact of the infection caused by E. praecox was related to the infective dose but its impact on performance was present from the lowest dose of 5,000 oocysts/bird when it was co-administered with E. acervulina.

After all these arguments it seems of great importance to include Eimeria praecox as a target in the fight against coccidiosis in chickens in fattening birds where the integrity of the duodenum is a must. This is the reason why in the design of the composition of HIPRACOX® it was decided to include E. praecox together with E. mitis to protect against the effects of subclinical coccidiosis in chickens.

The Eimeria species responsible for coccidiosis in broiler chickens

The Eimeria species responsible for coccidiosis in the species Gallus gallus are: E. acervulina, E. maxima, E. mitis, E. praecox and E. tenella, which are responsible for the disease in short life-cycle poultry (broilers), and E. necatrix and E. brunetti, which, together with the above 5 species, are responsible for the occurrence of outbreaks in long life-cycle poultry (breeders and layers). They are all ubiquitous in their behaviour and vary in their pathogenicity.

There are seven Eimeria species that are responsible for avian coccidiosis, 5 of which cause the disease in broilers: E. acervulina, E. mitis, E. tenella, E. maxima and E. praecox.

There are two more strains of Eimeria that are not recognised as causing the disease. These are: E. hagani, the only description of which was by Levine P.P. in 1938; and E. mivati, a species found in a vaccine in the USA which appears to be a mixture of other Eimeria, E. mitis and E. acervulina (M. W. Shirley et al. 1983).
Focussing on the species that are really important in the generation of the disease in broilers, we need to know exactly which species cause most damage and how they interact by generating synergies between one another, thereby causing greater damage within the host. E. acervulina, E. maxima, E. tenella, E. mitis and E. praecox are the main species that cause avian coccidiosis in broilers. They can all be found along the intestine of poultry, affecting different areas and causing different lesions depending on the species concerned.
Focussing on E. acervulina, E. maxima, E. tenella, E. mitis and E. praecox, the species that are responsible for avian coccidiosis in broilers, we need to know the lesions they cause and their behaviour and distribution within the gastrointestinal tract of chickens. Below is a video giving details of the different species of Eimeria that affect the gastrointestinal tract of poultry.
For the development of vaccine strains, the Eimeria species have to be attenuated. There are three methods of doing this: passage through embryonated eggs, gamma irradiation and selection for precociousness. When they are selected by passage through embryonated eggs and by gamma irradiation, this is generally associated with a loss of immunity by the line and therefore stable attenuation is not maintained (Shirley M.W et al. 1984). The best method shown so far is selection for precociousness developed by Jeffers (1975). during the nineteen seventies. The method is based primarily on the reduction of the reproductive potential of the strain, resulting in attenuation of the virulence, maintenance of the immunogenicity and genetically controlled stability.
When the appropriate method of attenuating the Eimeria species has been identified, we need to know which species will be necessary for development of the vaccine. E. acervulina, E. maxima and E. tenella are well known as the pathogens responsible for the disease and are included in the great majority of existing commercial vaccines, but this is not the case with E. mitis and E. praecox, which have been regarded as species of “less importance” in the field.
In his study on the pathogenesis of Eimeria praecox in broilers, R.B. Williams et al. (2009) demonstrated the importance of E. praecox as a pathogenic strain in itself. In this study, it was compared with E. acervulina and it was observed that the lesions caused by E. acervulina were macroscopic and severe, but did not last for more than 14 days post-infection. In contrast, in the case of E. praecox, the lesions were microscopic and caused a reduction in the viscosity of the intestinal content. In other studies such as those carried out by J.M. Répérant et al. 2011, the impact of the infection caused by E. praecox was related to the infective dose but its impact in performances was present from the lowest dose of 5000 oocysts/bird. When it was co-administered with E. acervulina, it caused a greater impact on production indices.
Furthermore, the selection of strains within an Eimeria species is essential in order to obtain good protection, thus conferring cross-protection within each species, as is the case with the vaccine strain E. maxima 013, which is able to provide protection against 6 different pathogenic strains of E. maxima obtained from different geographic locations.
It is essential to find out about the epidemiological behaviour of the Eimeria oocysts in order to understand how the vaccine strains will behave and what vaccine load will be necessary in order to produce an appropriate vaccine response. Generally, the oocysts that are found in the bedding can persist for up to 3 weeks (Williams R.B. 1995), with sporulation being better with a moisture content of the litter from 31 to 62.1%. Whether or not they are sporulated, 20% are ingested by the chickens and pass through their intestines. As immunity is generated within the flock, the percentage of oocysts eliminated is reduced with each life cycle of the parasite. Hence the necessity of determining accurately the volume of oocysts necessary for each vaccine strain, in order to ensure an appropriate response to the vaccine.
In order to confer immunity against all the Eimeria species that are present in the environment, all the Eimeria vaccine strains need to be included as there is no cross-protection between the different species, hence the necessity of formulating a vaccine with the 5 Eimeria species when the target category is represented by broilers.
With all this tested knowledge, HIPRA, a specialist in avian coccidiosis, has developed the HIPRACOX® vaccine, the only vaccine specially developed for short life-cycle poultry, containing in its formulation all the Eimeria species responsible for avian coccidiosis in broiler chickens.

Eimeria tenella is probably the most diagnosed Eimeria on the planet, but what is the prevalence of the other Eimeria species that cause coccidiosis in poultry?

Eimeria tenella is by far the most widely detected species on farms when routine lesion scoring is performed. However, it is well known that Eimeria infections very seldom occur with one single species of Eimeria, most of the time they are multiple. Let’s investigate what are the most prevalent species and how multiple infections usually occur.

As Eimeria tenella is probably the easiest species to detect by lesion scoring, a common belief is that this species is the most prevalent all over the globe. In fact, macroscopic lesions are amongst the most pathognomonic with blood or typical moulds in the caecum and common finding of bloody droppings in the litter.

There are seven species of Eimeria recognized as parasitizing chickens (Gallus gallus), which vary in their ability to induce diarrhoea, morbidity and mortality (Williams 1998). They are Eimeria tenella, Eimeria acervulina, Eimeria brunetti, Eimeria maxima, Eimeria mitis, Eimeria necatrix and Eimeria praecox. They occur throughout the world wherever commercial broilers are reared. All seven species of Eimeria infecting chickens were detected in surveys of commercial poultry farms in many countries, for example, the Czech Republic (Kučera 1990), France (Williams et al. 1996), Sweden (Thebo et al. 1998), the UK (Eckert et al. 1995), Argentina (Mcdougald et al. 1997; Mattiello et al. 2000), Australia (Jorgensen et al. 1997; Morris et al. 2007), China (Sun et al. 2009), India (Aarthi et al. 2010), South Korea (Lee et al. 2010) and Brazil (Moraes et al. 2015).
Like Eimeria tenella that is localized in the caecum, the different Eimeria species tend to develop in different parts of the chicken gut and may be identified by the nature and location of the lesions they cause during multiplication (Long et al. 1976, Long et al. 1982). However, a definitive diagnosis requires additional laboratory investigations. Nowadays, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and morphometric identification of the Eimeria species are frequently used together as a means of differentiation in the field samples of faeces and litter.
In Europe, few field surveys of Eimeria species are available and even fewer have been conducted using samples from broiler farms. In a study conducted by HIPRA (Pagès et al. 2015), litter samples obtained from broiler farms between 2003 and 2008 in Spain, Belgium, Italy and France were evaluated for the presence of Eimeria species. Samples of litter faeces from each farm were pooled from 10 different random locations within a single broiler house on each farm. In fact, the species composition of coccidial populations is highly repeatable among different broiler houses on the same farm (Jeffers 1974). The evaluation was performed using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) developed at the Institute for Animal Health (Compton, UK) to specifically detect E. tenella, E. acervulina, E. maxima, E. mitis and E. praecox. Together with this molecular tool for detecting Eimeria species in litter samples, oocyst counts and the evaluation of the percentage of species by using a morphometry test were also performed to further evaluate the samples.
We decided only to look for the five species of Eimeria that usually affect commercial broiler farms -Eimeria tenella, Eimeria acervulina, Eimeria maxima, Eimeria mitis, and Eimeria praecox- due to the fact that E. necatrix has been reported to cause disease in long-lived birds -up to 12 weeks or more- (Williams et al. 1996, Williams 1998) and similarly E. brunetti is often reported to be rare in broilers (Long et al. 1982, Williams et al. 1996, Graat et al. 1998).
Analyzing the 3 species of Eimeria of known and high pathogenic potential (Eimeria tenella, E. acervulina and E. maxima), Eimeria acervulina has been shown to be the most widespread in the four European countries studied, whereas between the two species causing subclinical problems and affecting productivity: E. mitis seems to be quite uncommon, whereas E. praecox was shown to be present in all countries. Combinations of 3 species together were the most common especially: E. tenella, E. acervulina, and E. praecox. E. praecox was found to be highly associated with E. acervulina.

Similar to the study conducted in Europe and using the same techniques of evaluation of the samples, in 2012 HIPRA also performed the first Eimeria spp. prevalence study in South Africa (Pagès et al. 2015)

Analyzing the 3 species of Eimeria of known and highly pathogenic potential (Eimeria tenella E. acervulina and E. maxima) Eimeria acervulina was shown to be the most widespread in South Africa (40.5%), whereas regarding the 2 species that cause subclinical problems and affect flock productivity: E. mitis was less prevalent (7.1%) then E. praecox (9.5%). Combinations of 2 species together were the most common especially: E. acervulina + E. tenella and E. acervulina + E. maxima.
Once again these studies showed the widespread presence of Eimeria praecox and thus of subclinical coccidiosis that “remains one of the most important infections causing decline in production performances” (Haug et al. 2008).
Finally, these results confirmed that the most prevalent species of Eimeria by far is E. acervulina, in contrast with the field perception that most of the time coccidiosis is only caused by E. tenella.