Merial Avian Forum Asia 2014 – A Huge Success
With the theme ‘Impact and Control of Respiratory Diseases of Poultry’ the second edition of the Merial Avian Forum Asia took place at the Grand Hi-Lai Hotel in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on September 17-18.  The two-day scientific event gave participants from 17 countries an opportunity, not only to learn more about Merial products and services, but also a chance to network and exchange information, experiences and best practices on a common concern - poultry respiratory diseases.
In his opening address, Harry Picard, Avian Head of Marketing, Asia highlighted that “Merial is committed to successful partnering with stakeholders to provide regionally-relevant and practical solutions to industry challenges at all steps of the poultry meat and egg value chain.  The Merial Avian Forum Asia 2014 is just one part of our strategy to bring value, and support and invest in the industry.” 
Forum Highlights
Several eminent speakers presented on important respiratory diseases - Infectious Bronchitis, Avian Metapneumovirus, Avian Influenza, Newcastle Disease, Infectious Coryza and Mycoplasmas.
·         Infectious Bursal Disease
Dr. Michel Bublot, Research Project and Technology Platform Leader from Merial France talked about ‘Evolution of Infectious Bursal Disease Vaccinology’.  According to Dr. Bublot, “to control respiratory disease, first you need to control Infectious Bursal Disease (IBD), which is one of the two primary lymphoid organs of birds.”  According to Dr. Bublot, “new biotechnologies were used to develop the third generation of IBD vaccines based on the HVT virus, widely used to prevent Marek’s Disease.  On the contrary, with Vaxxitek HVT+IBD, there is no such replication or damage in the bursa and therefore no compromise in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine,” he added. 
Dongwoo Lee, Avian Business Manager, Merial – Korea, added that “this novel HVT vectored vaccine - Vaxxitek HVT + IBD has been reported to be safe and efficacious in broilers and layers, regardless of the levels of maternal IBD immunity. 
·         Infectious Bronchitis
Professor Yongchang Cao, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou China, discussed this disease which he dubbed as “an ever changing threat”.  “IBV still changes continually by mutation or recombination.  Since new types of IBV, such as QX-like strain, is the predominant threat, it is necessary to use novel and high-quality IB vaccines for prevention and control.”  He concluded that “in trials it has been shown that vaccination with two antigenically distinct live-attenuated vaccines, such as H120 combined with LDT3, can result in broad cross-protection against many different IBV types.”
Dr. Andreas Herrmann, Global Veterinary Technical Services Director, Merial France gave an update on ‘Avian Metapneumovirus’ (aMPv), commonly known as swollen head syndrome.  According to him, there is no treatment available for aMPv-infected chickens, but the use of antibiotics can help in reducing secondary infections and disease severity.  Live (e.g. NEMOVAC) and inactivated vaccines (e.g. GALLIMUNE range) are available, which can considerably reduce ill health and losses.  While these vaccines can be administered by drinking water, inter-nasal or intra-ocular routes, spray vaccination is preferred”, he noted.
·         Update on Avian Influenza in Asia
Dr. David Swayne, Director, Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, USA Department of Agriculture, explained that “most highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) epizootics have been eradicated using traditional stamping-out programs, but beginning in 1995, five epizootics have added vaccination as an additional, interim control tool.”  “Eradication is the only control strategy,” he stressed.  “Vaccination should only be seen as a tool to manage disease, but it makes diagnosis more difficult.  Vaccinations role in eradicating AI is to buy time, and is only for when biosecurity doesn’t work.”
·         Mycoplasma Control
In his lecture, Dr. Chris Morrow, Global Technical and Marketing Manager, Bioproperties  explained that vertical transmission in fertile eggs and horizontal airborne transmission make control of mycoplasma infections particularly problematic.  “Although mycoplasma freedom has been seen as the ultimate control strategy, this has not been achieved for a variety of reasons”, said Dr. Morrow.  “Mycoplasma vaccination with MS MSH and MG ts-11 vaccines is now seen as a viable alternative for total mycoplasma control, with biosecurity.  Using these vaccines displaces routine antibiotics in layers, and breeders and their broiler progeny.  Both live vaccines infect the bird for life and protect the bird for life.  No extra killed vaccines are needed.”  Dr. Morrow added that “a commercial layer producer in Asia had achieved a 4% saving in feed, which more than paid for the mycoplasma vaccine cost.”
·         Monitoring, surveillance and biosecurity
Dr. Rafael Monleon, Business Unit Manager (Poultry), Biocheck shared his experiences in controlling respiratory diseases, emphasizing the need for proper diagnostic tools.  Due to its relatively low-cost and capacity of mass-screening ELISA has been widely accepted as a tool to monitor the immune response following vaccination and to diagnose disease. 
According to him, there are three key criteria that have to be met to conclude that the serology obtained is the result of a field challenge.  “Firstly, the mean titer post-infection should be significantly increased.  A good rule is that the mean titer post-infection must be at least twice the level you expect after vaccination, or at least twice the mean titer before infection.  Secondly, the mean Coefficient of Variation (CV) should be significantly below levels you expect after vaccination, or significantly below the CV levels before infection.  Lastly, the clinical signs must match the serology.  For example, if you have elevated IBV serology, but no clinical signs, or signs that do not match IBV, you cannot confirm an IBV challenge.”
On the other hand, Dr. Munawar Ali, General Manager Production and Technical Head, Islamabad Farms, Pakistan gave an overview of ‘Practical Biosecurity’, stating that “biosecurity is not only science, but an art and culture as well”.  “This means that the approach of applying this science is to tilt the balance in favour of birds, rather than bugs, the application is an art, which should also be adopted as a culture also.”  He stressed “that studies have shown that people are the main culprits, contributing 90% of disease spread.”
·         Vaccination Technology
Lim Chin Cheong, Manager of Merial Asia’s Competence Centre and Vaccination Technology and Services gave an overview of in-ovo vaccination.  He noted that “the site of vaccination is moving from the field to the hatchery, with more than 90% of the US broiler market using in ovo vaccination.”  Merial is continuing to improve its vaccination technology and services, including automated in-ovo vaccination in the hatchery, introducing its in-ovo device, Ovo-Jector, in April 2014, which has the capacity to treat up to 35,000 eggs per hour. 
Dr. Ryan Izard, Chief Science and Technology Officer, Animal Science Products discussed how failing to manage the numerous risks that exist among all water supplies, such as oxidisers, pH and osmotic balance, can reduce vaccine effectiveness and leave holes in the flock’s immunity.  New-generation stabilisers for drinking water, spray and eye-drop seek to protect vaccines from as many risks as possible.  He concluded that “in the end, safe food comes from companies with healthy birds, healthy birds come from farms with strong vaccination management, and strong vaccination management includes new-generation stabilisers.”
In 2015 Merial will remain committed to bringing the same level of technical exchange and discussion at a regional level, with the third edition of the Merial Avian Forum Asia.