IAH working on cheaper, lower risk FMD vaccine

RESEARCHERS at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH), at Pirbright, have revealed they are working on a new cheaper, potentially lower risk foot-and-mouth (FMD) vaccine for cattle.

Scientists at the research institute are trying to develop an effective DNA vaccine. The significance of the breakthrough would be that such vaccines do not require high containment facilities for production, making them ‘easier to design and cheaper to produce than current vaccines against FMD’.

The IAH’s Pirbright laboratory complex was famously at the centre of the 2007 FMD outbreak, which was traced to a leak from the site’s ageing drainage system, prompted by heavy rain.

IAH said experimental results show DNA vaccines have the potential, with further development, to protect against FMD.

Dr Paul Barnett, who led the research, said “This is the first time this type of DNA vaccination regime has been shown to be effective in protecting cattle.

“We were confident that this would be possible as we have already shown, in collaboration with European partners, that a DNA based vaccine that includes an additional protein to boost its effectiveness can protect pigs against FMD and even without the additional protein boost can prevent sheep from being infected.

“The next challenge for us will be to remove the reliance on this protein boost in cattle so that we have an alternative vaccine that fully lives up to the potential that the DNA approach can offer.”

The research was published last week in Antiviral Research.

In the EU, vaccination may be considered in emergency outbreak situations and many member countries have access to strategic FMD vaccine reserves.

DNA vaccines are much more stable under storage and consequently have a longer shelf life, making them more amenable to this type of strategy, IAH said.

Conventional FMD vaccines involve the use of chemically inactivated virus antigen to initiate an immune response without causing disease.

While these work well they have to be manufactured under expensive high containment facilities, must be kept cool at all times, and may not always be best suited to a specific virus threat

DNA vaccines, on the other hand, can be easily and quickly manipulated for a specific disease threat and can be expanded to manufacturing scale without the need for facilities with high biosecurity.

How DNA vaccination works

  • A small piece of synthetic DNA is incorporated into the cells of the animal.
  • It is then processed within these cells to make proteins that are almost identical to the chemically inactivated virus antigen.
  • The cells then attach these proteins to their outer surface to signal to the immune system that something foreign has arrived – thus simulating one of the events that happen when an infection occurs.
  • This triggers a wider variety of immune parameters than that by conventional vaccines so the immune system is better primed to respond quickly to the real virus should it arrive.

Readers' comments (2)

  • This information is of academic interest only unless in the event of an outbreak of FMD we have politicians who will order its use.

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  • Where would you use it, John?

    Sheep are the main cause for concern as there is so many of them and so many movements. Consider the logisitics of vaccinating all the sheep in the country in an outbreak!

    How about ring vaccination in hot-spots? Seems a bit pointless when those animals will be culled anyway.


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