Avian influenza vaccines are commonly used in the poultry industry, and some medicinal plants can increase the efficacy of such vaccines. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of Immulant® (IMU) (a commercial product based on Echinacea and Nigella sativa) on stress induced by dexamethasone (DEX) in chickens vaccinated (VAC) against the H9N2 avian influenza virus (AIV-H9N2). Seven experimental groups were included: the negative control, VAC, DEX, VAC + DEX, VAC + DEX + IMU, VAC + IMU and IMU groups. The vaccinated chickens (at 10 days of age) were injected daily with DEX for three days pre-vaccination and for three days pre-challenge and orally administered 1% IMU for 6 weeks post-vaccination (PV). The chickens were then challenged intranasally with AIV-H9N2 at 28 days PV. Serum, blood, tracheal and cloacal swabs and tissue samples were collected in the 1st and 4th weeks PV and at different time points post-challenge. The results showed significant changes (P ≤ 0.05) in oxidative stress and antioxidant biomarkers (malondialdehyde, nitric oxide and reduced glutathione), haematological and immunological parameters, final live weights, relative organ weights and histopathological lesions between the VAC+DEX group and the VAC group. Moreover, IMU significantly increased protection rates post-challenge, HI antibody titers and heterophil phagocytic activity and decreased DEX-induced stress and virus shedding titers. In conclusion, oral administration of 1% IMU for six weeks can enhance the immune response after AI-H9N2 vaccination and reduce the pathogenicity of infection in stressed chickens.
Keywords: AIV-H9N2; Chickens; Dexamethasone; Immulant(®); Stress; Vaccine.
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