While the effective use of antibiotics for the control of human disease has saved countless lives and has increased life expectancy over the past few decades, there are concerns arising from their usage in livestock. The use of antibiotic feed additives in food production animals has been linked to the emergence in the food chain of multiple drug-resistant bacteria that appear impervious to even the most powerful antimicrobial agents. Furthermore, the use of chemical antimicrobials has led to concerns involving environmental contamination and unwanted residues in food products. The imminent banning of antibiotic usage in livestock feed has intensified the search for environmentally-friendly alternative methods to control disease. Cytokines, as natural mediators and regulators of the immune response, offer exciting new alternatives to conventional chemical-based therapeutics. The utilisation of cytokines is becoming more feasible, particularly in poultry, with the recent cloning of a number of avian cytokine genes. Chickens offer an attractive small animal model system with which to study the effectiveness of cytokine therapy in the control of disease in intensive livestock. In this report we will review the status of avian cytokines and focus on our recent studies involving the therapeutic potential of chicken interferon gamma (ChIFN-γ) as a vaccine adjuvant and a growth promoter. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
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