Colibacillosis accounts for significant losses to the poultry industry, and control efforts are hampered by limited understanding of the mechanisms used by avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) to cause disease. We have found that the presence of the increased serum survival gene (iss) is strongly associated with APEC but not with commensal E. coli, makingiss, and the protein it encodes (Iss), candidate targets of colibacillosis control procedures. To assess the potential of Iss to elicit a protective response in chickens against APEC challenge, Iss fusion proteins were produced and administered subcutaneously to four groups of 2-wk-old specific-pathogen-free leghorn chickens. At 4 wk postimmunization, birds were challenged with APEC from serogroups O2 and O78 via intramuscular injection. At 2 wk postchallenge, birds were necropsied, and lesions consistent with colibacillosis were scored. Also, sera were collected from the birds pre- and postimmunization, and antibody titers to Iss were determined. Immunized birds produced a humoral response to Iss, and they had significantly lower lesion scores than the unimmunized control birds following challenge with both APEC strains. Birds that received the smallest amount of immunogen had the lowest lesion scores. Although further study will be needed to confirm the value of Iss as an immunoprotective antigen, these preliminary data suggest that Iss may have the potential to elicit significant protection in birds against heterologous E. coli challenge.
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