Vaccination is an important tool in poultry health, but is itself a stressor often resulting in a reduction in feed intake, body weight gain, and nutrient digestibility. In other species, vaccination is associated with an immediate acute-phase response. As an important immune parameter, the circulating heterophil/lymphocyte (H/L) ratio is a well-recognized parameter of stress in poultry. In this study, the effects of a routinely used commercial poultry vaccine on the acute phase response (APR) and H/L ratios in specific pathogen-free (SPF) layer chicks was examined to determine if post vaccination (PV) stress and an APR occur. A combined Newcastle disease and infectious bronchitis vaccine (Nobalis Ma5+Clone 30) was administered to SPF chicks by the intraocular route at age 7 d. Acute phase proteins (APP), alpha-1 acid glycoprotein (AGP) and serum amyloid A (SAA) were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays at d 0 (pre-vaccination) and d 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 21 PV. Stress was determined in the chicks by measurement of the H/L ratio. The immune response to the vaccine was estimated by measurement of the antibody (IgY) response to the vaccine at d 21.
The antibody titer was significantly (P < 0.05) higher in the vaccinated group at 21 d PV, confirming stimulation of the immune system. The H/L ratio was also significantly higher in the vaccinated group at 1 to 2 d (P < 0.01) and at 3 d (P < 0.05) PV. The concentration of SAA increased by 2.8-fold, from 63.7 μg/mL in controls to 181 μg/mL in the vaccinated group, (P < 0.05) at 1 d PV. AGP increased 1.6-fold at 2 d PV, (from 0.75 g/mL in the control group to 1.24 g/mL in the vaccinated group, P < 0.05).
In conclusion an immediate but mild APR occurred in the chicks following intraocular vaccination, whereas the stress response as measured by H/L ratio seemed to be more specific and sensitive. Measurement of these biomarkers of the host response could be a tool in vaccine development.