Scientists from The Pirbright Institute have created a laboratory procedure which allows the response of chicken immune cells to infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) to be studied without infecting live chickens. IBDV, also known as Gumboro disease, can result in immunosuppression and death in poultry, causing significant economic losses across the globe.
The new method allows scientists to isolate the immune cells that are infected by IBDV (called B cells) and grow them in the lab. This allows the interaction between B cells and the virus to be investigated, which will help researchers to understand the disease and aid the development of better control strategies.
The researchers published their protocol in JoVE, a journal which specialises in documenting research procedures through video in order to make experiments easier to duplicate. “We hope that our procedure can be used and adapted by many other scientists who work with chicken B cells, so that as a community we can reduce the number of birds needed for our experiments” said Dr Andrew Broadbent, Institute Fellow who heads the Birnaviruses group at Pirbright.
Studying how IBDV interacts with the cells they infect was previously difficult to achieve in the laboratory as B cells would not survive when removed from chickens. The procedures demonstrated in JoVE provide an alternative way of studying cell-virus interactions, which could reduce the number of chickens needed for this type of research by 5000 each year if it were to be adopted across the board.
Building on this work, Dr Broadbent has received funding from the National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs) to further study IBDV pathogenesis and improve the control of different immunosuppressive viruses in poultry. “Our research opens up the possibility of studying other viral interactions, such as understanding why some IBDV strains are more virulent, the reaction of B cells to infection with multiple viruses and testing the ability of vaccines to produce immune responses”, added Dr Broadbent.
The new procedure could also be used for investigating other poultry viral disease which infect B cells, such as avian leukosis virus or reticuloendotheliosis virus, and could be applied to different hosts such as ducks or turkeys, further reducing the number of birds needed for this kind of research. The technique marks a huge step forward for Pirbright scientists working towards the Refinement, Reduction, Replacement of animals in research, known as the 3R’s.