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Newcastle disease virus (NDV) - A type strain for avian paramyxoviruses. Members of this family have a single stranded, linear, RNA, with an elliptical symmetry. NDV is a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting most species of birds. Clinical signs are extremely variable depending on the strain of virus, species and age of bird, concurrent disease, and preexisting immunity.

NDV is so virulent that many birds die without showing any clinical signs. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated poultry flocks. NDV can infect and cause death even in vaccinated poultry. Fortunately NDV has not infected domestic chicken flocks in the United States since the last outbreak was eradicated in 1974.

NDV is spread primarily through direct contact between healthy birds and the bodily discharges of infected birds. The disease is transmitted through infected birds' droppings and secretions from the nose, mouth, and eyes. NDV spreads rapidly among birds kept in confinement, such as commercially raised chickens. NDV affects the respiratory, nervous, and digestive systems. Symptoms are very variable depending on the strain of virus, species of bird, concurrent disease and preexisting immunity. The incubation period for the disease ranges from 2 to 15 days.

Exposure of humans to infected birds (for example in poultry processing plants) can cause mild conjunctivitis and influenza-like symptoms, but the NDV otherwise poses no hazard to human health. Interest in the use of NDV as an anticancer agent has arisen from the ability of NDV to selectively kill human tumour cells with limited toxicity to normal cells.

With funding from PATH, CERID Investigator Dr. David Koelle is working with colleagues to develop an accessible method of distributing Newcastle Disease virus (NDV) vaccine to low-resource and backyard poultry farmers around the world. Backyard poultry is a significant contributor to both protein nutrition and household economies in the developing world. Newcastle Disease is a contagious and deadly viral disease that affects most species of birds. Backyard poultry farmers lack access to traditional NDV vaccines that require freezing and are marketed to large poultry farms at >500 doses/unit. 

Part of the interdisciplinary One Health initiative that seeks to unite human and veterinary medicine, Dr. Koelle's team has tested a fast-dissolving tablet (FDT) form of the vaccine that can stored for more than 6 months at 4°C and then diluted and administered via drinking water or with a dropper. These NDV-FDTs are stable at refrigerator temperatures, contain only 50 doses, and may provide substantial advantages for backyard poultry immunization.

Link to Publication.