Immunization with pooled antigens for Clostridium perfringens conferred partial protection against experimental necrotic enteritis in broiler chickens

20 Jun 2022
Yuan B, Sun Z, Lu M, Lillehoj H, Lee Y, Liu L, Yan X, Yang DA and Li C

Necrotic enteritis (NE) is a multifactorial and important enteric infectious disease etiologically caused by pathogenic C. perfringens infection, accounting for the estimated loss of around USD 6 billion in the global poultry industry. The increasing incidence of NE was found to be associated with the voluntary reduction or withdrawal of antibiotic growth promoters from animal feed during recent years. Therefore, the development of effective vaccines specific to NE assumes a priority for the poultry industry. This study aimed to identify the potential C. perfringens proteins as vaccine targets for NE. Three recombinant C. perfringens proteins targeting five antigens were prepared: two chimeric proteins (alpha-toxin and NetB, fructose-1,6-bisphosphate aldolase (FBA) and a zinc metalloprotease (Zm)), and one single collagen adhesion protein (Cna). Their protection efficacies were evaluated with a potent challenge model of Eimeria maxima/C. perfringens dual infections using a netB+tpeL+ C. perfringens strain. Young chicks were immunized twice subcutaneously with adjuvanted C. perfringens proteins on Days 4 and 15. At six days after the second immunization, the chickens immunized with Cna, FBA, and Zm antigens, and alpha-toxin had much higher serum antibody titers than unvaccinated controls prior to the challenge. Following the challenge, the pooled antigen-immunized group demonstrated no mortality and the least lesion scores against virulent challenge. The results indicate that the immunization with multicomponent antigens, including C. perfringens housekeeping protein Cna, may confer partial protection.