Five vaccines, including four inactivated, whole-virus water-in-oil adjuvanted vaccines and a commercial non-replicating alphavirus vectored RNA particle (RP) vaccine were evaluated in chickens for their ability to provide protection against challenge with a recent H7 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (AIV) from the US (A/turkey/IN/1403-1/2016 H7N8). One of the inactivated vaccines and the RP vaccine were prepared with A/turkey/IN/16-01571-6/2016 H7N8 low pathogenic AIV (TK/IN/16), which is identical to the challenge virus, except for the proteolytic cleavage site of the HA protein. The remaining 3 inactivated vaccines were prepared with other North American H7 LPAIV viruses. Hemagglutination inhibition assay was used to evaluate the antigenic relationships among the vaccines and selected recent H7 AIV isolates. All five vaccines provided protection against mortality. The inactivated vaccines reduced virus shedding significantly at 2 and 4 days post challenge compared to sham vaccinated chickens. In contrast, the RP vaccine did not significantly reduce virus shedding. The inactivated vaccine prepared with TK/IN/16 elicited the highest antibody responses, which suggests this is a strong candidate for use as an antigen for North American H7 AIVs. Antigenic distance calculations showed that the four inactivated vaccine strains and other recent North American H7 isolates are antigenically similar, which suggests that the vaccines evaluated here would be similar enough to provide protection to other North American H7 AIVs. If future H7 outbreaks in poultry warrant vaccination, the field strain can be rapidly evaluated with these antigens and if adequately related, one of these characterized strains may be utilized.

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