It’s no secret that eggs are healthy to eat, but that eggs play an essential role in human health protection is far less well known. Poultry World had the opportunity to visit Pluma and Globoaves, the go-to companies for sourcing vaccine eggs in Brazil.
With the coronavirus dominating the world’s headlines and severely impacting society as a whole, you could almost forget there is another killer virus out there. The common flu is far more devastating but causes less panic because humanity is used to dealing with it. And there is a vaccine to protect the most vulnerable in society. A vaccine in which eggs play a crucial role.
The basis for vaccine manufacturing is a fertilised egg that has been incubated for 10-11 days and handled in accordance with strict quality control and hygiene standards. Photo: Fabian Brockotter
The basis for vaccine manufacturing is a fertilised egg that has been incubated for 10-11 days. It is then transferred to the vaccine manufacturer which inoculates the egg with the flu virus. In the 3 days that follow, the egg is put back in the hatcher, during which time the virus grows on the epithelial layer. After one day cooling, the virus can be harvested and one dose of vaccine can be made. This whole process takes place in ‘clean rooms’, facilities with extreme biosecurity measures to guarantee optimum and safe vaccine production. You might expect that high standards would also be required for vaccine egg production, the speciality of companies like Pluma and Globoaves. They both deliver their eggs to the Butantan Institute. The only institute that has the technology to produce flu vaccines in Latin America. “Recently it was announced in the media that it will be making big investments to double its current production to grow from 60 million doses to 120 million. It also announced partnerships with the company Sanofi, WHO (the World Health Organization) and possible export to the Chinese market,” says Mario Tremarin, manager at Globoaves/Globobiotech.
Highest egg quality possible
Kleber Cadamure, Puma’s hatchery supervisor in Casa Branca, knows all about the high standards set by the Butantan Institute. “Everything in our production process has been fine-tuned to achieve the highest egg quality possible. Our whole vaccine egg production is separated from the rest of the business, with dedicated farms, a feed mill and a hatchery. We have one rearing farm and 5 production farms where commercial layers are held together with the male brother layers. We aim for an ideal egg weight of 50 grammes, work with strict biosecurity protocols, heat treat feed, UV treat water and keep the birds separated from the manure with slatted floors. The eggs are also disinfected multiple times during handling and transportation,” he continues. “And it doesn’t stop there, the same strict protocols apply in the hatchery. On top of which it is essential for us to ensure that the eggs are optimally handled to prevent cracks and losses. As you can imagine, vaccine eggs are a high value product involving a lot of effort to ensure safety and quality.”
Preventing cracks and losses is essential given that vaccine eggs are a high value product. Photo: Fabian Brockotter
“We work in close partnership with the Butantan Institute and its quality control department to study existing bird lines to obtain better production yields,” Mario Tremarin adds. “It is scientific work that requires rigour and excellence to select the best genetics.” Globoaves invests its best resources to supply controlled fertile eggs for the production of vaccines. The eggs are produced on their own farms built in places protected by natural biological barriers. Globoaves applies very high standards of sanitary control, using the most modern methods in poultry production with strict controls, such as ventilation control, air conditioning, lighting, automatic nests and plastic slats, as well as in the transport and packaging of its eggs on automated lines. The hatcheries have state-of-the-art machines and strict production control with very high sanitary control and good manufacturing practices. It has highly qualified personnel dedicated solely to these aspects. The feed factories have strict quality and raw material control. The feed provided to the birds is exclusive with its own formula and produced using the best ingredients from recognised and previously selected suppliers to guarantee a specific nutritional content and quality for egg production. All the production steps and raw materials used are traceable for complete process security. The feed is transported in dedicated own trucks directly from the factories to the farms. All of this without neglecting the animal welfare aspects which, in both the breeding and production phases, are high priority so the birds can produce eggs of the best quality and in good health. The bird strains used come from the best genetics companies in the world and have been genetically adapted for this purpose.”
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Attuned to the flu
The whole production process at Pluma is attuned to the human influenza season. “Rearing starts in January and at the age of 14 weeks the birds are transferred in May to the production farm,” Kleber explains. “In September we produce the best eggs which we can deliver to the Butantan Institute. Production stops in April, after which the houses are cleaned for a new flock in September.” This means the hatchery is only in operation from September to April, producing eggs for the flu season in the Southern Hemisphere.
Globoaves manager Mario Tremarin believes that vaccine egg production in Brazil will grow annually to meet the goals of Brazil’s Ministry of Health and WHO (the World Health Organization). “We have an industry that has a proven track record as a responsible partner in the food industry, with technological excellence in genetics, handling and biosecurity guaranteeing the production of high quality eggs. The country is also free of Avian Influenza and has large areas of land available on which to build farms with sanitary security and natural biological barriers. We will follow the expansion plans already announced by the Butantan Institute. Globoaves’ production started in 2007 with about 20 million vaccine eggs delivered to the Butantan Institute. Today the forecast for the 2019/2020 period is to deliver 75 million fertile eggs, which represents a significant increase. Globobiotech has committed to the Butatan Institute that over the coming years it will evolve and grow to meet the expected demand. So we will continue to invest in knowledge, new facilities and the latest equipment available on the market.”