More than 150 veterinarians, researchers, students, technicians and industry professionals from 21 countries attended the 10th International Symposium on Marek’s Disease and Avian Herpesvirus in late July. The symposium was co-hosted by Michigan State University and the Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory.
Marek’s disease was once the most economically devastating disease in the poultry industry, according to the university. In its acute form, it can wipe out up to 80 percent of a flock of chickens.
Research, the development of effective vaccines and breeding lines of chickens resistant to the disease have been an enormous success, the university further noted. But new and more virulent strains continue to emerge.
“Marek’s disease is one of the best success stories in all of animal agriculture,” said Richard Witter, DVM, director of the Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory from 1976 to 1998. “If vaccines were to fail, the existence of the poultry industry as we know it would be in jeopardy.”
The symposium hosted 12 keynote and invited speakers, including participants of the panel “Perspectives on Marek’s disease breakthroughs since the 1960s.”
The panel was filmed, along with individual interviews, and will be made available to attendees on a DVD. Additionally, the organizing committee published Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory: a 75 Year History, written by Witter.
The Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory is part of the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. The laboratory was formed in 1939 during a poultry epidemic that was later found to include Marek’s, avian leucosis virus and other viral diseases.