Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Antibody expressing pea seeds as fodder for prevention of gastrointestinal parasitic infections in chickens

Jana Zimmermann1, Isolde Saalbach12, Doreen Jahn1, Martin Giersberg1, Sigrun Haehnel1, Julia Wedel3, Jeanette Macek12, Karen Zoufal1, Gerhard Glünder3, Dieter Falkenburg1 and Sergey M Kipriyanov14*

Author Affiliations

1 Novoplant GmbH, Am Schwabeplan 1b, 06466 Gatersleben, Germany

2 Leibniz-Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Corrensstrasse 3, 06466 Gatersleben, Germany

3 Clinic for Poultry, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Bünteweg 17, 30559 Hannover, Germany

4 Current address : Affitech AS, Oslo Research Park, Gaustadalléen 21, 0349 Oslo, Norway

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BMC Biotechnology 2009, 9:79  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-9-79

Published: 11 September 2009



Coccidiosis caused by protozoans of genus Eimeria is a chicken parasitic disease of great economical importance. Conventional disease control strategies depend on vaccination and prophylactic use of anticoccidial drugs. Alternative solution to prevent and treat coccidiosis could be provided by passive immunization using orally delivered neutralizing antibodies. We investigated the possibility to mitigate the parasitic infection by feeding poultry with antibody expressing transgenic crop seeds.


Using the phage display antibody library, we generated a panel of anti-Eimeria scFv antibody fragments with high sporozoite-neutralizing activity. These antibodies were expressed either transiently in agrobacteria-infiltrated tobacco leaves or stably in seeds of transgenic pea plants. Comparison of the scFv antibodies purified either from tobacco leaves or from the pea seeds demonstrated no difference in their antigen-binding activity and molecular form compositions. Force-feeding experiments demonstrated that oral delivery of flour prepared from the transgenic pea seeds had higher parasite neutralizing activity in vivo than the purified antibody fragments isolated from tobacco. The pea seed content was found to protect antibodies against degradation by gastrointestinal proteases (>100-fold gain in stability). Ad libitum feeding of chickens demonstrated that the transgenic seeds were well consumed and not shunned. Furthermore, feeding poultry with shred prepared from the antibody expressing pea seeds led to significant mitigation of infection caused both by high and low challenge doses of Eimeria oocysts.


The results suggest that our strategy offers a general approach to control parasitic infections in production animals using cost-effective antibody expression in crop seeds affordable for the animal health market.