Mexican researchers have created an edible Newcastle disease vaccine by genetically modifying maize.
The researchers hope their approach can help small-scale poultry farmers protect their flocks, as Newcastle disease is a major killer of poultry in developing countries.
The new approach is novel, because food-based vaccines against Newcastle disease are not usually available in the small quantities required by single families or villages.
“There is a big problem in delivering the vaccine to the many millions of poor poultry keepers around the world, and the GM maize could be a possibility,” says Frands Dolberg of the Network for Smallholder Poultry Development, which works with partners in developing countries to promote poultry farming as a way of improving livelihoods.
Dolberg says that its success would depend on how accessible the GM maize was to poultry farmers.
To create the vaccine, Octavio Guerrero-Andrade of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) in Guanajuato and his colleagues inserted a gene from the Newcastle disease virus into maize DNA.
Chickens that ate the genetically modified maize produced antibodies against the virus, providing a level of protection comparable to commercial vaccines.