New animal vaccines aim to save livestock and protect humans
Novel livestock vaccines developed by EU-funded researchers could improve animal welfare, save money, reduce the need for environment-damaging chemicals, and tackle alarming levels of antimicrobial resistance.
© Cindy Bernelin, 2016
Common infectious diseases continue to kill livestock, requiring chemical treatments that damage the environment and prove costly for farmers. Where available, many commercial vaccines are not sufficiently effective, and antimicrobial resistance has soared.
Taken together, these issues are a significant threat to global public health, animal welfare and food security with around 20 % of livestock production losses due to infectious animal diseases.. As the demand for animal food products rises, it is becoming increasingly important to prevent these diseases from occurring and spreading.
The EU-funded SAPHIR project has attempted to tackle the weaknesses in the prevention of animal disease by developing new, effective vaccines. The researchers targeted diseases that account for high economic losses and are responsible for the elevated use of antimicrobial treatments.
Antimicrobial resistance has reached alarming levels worldwide both in human and veterinary medicine, explains project coordinator Isabelle Schwartz of the National Institute for Agricultural Research in France. The SAPHIR project aimed to reduce antimicrobial use in farming, strengthen the profitability of food animal systems and improve animal welfare.
SAPHIR researchers have used the latest genomic and bio-statistical approaches to identify biomarkers for developing breeding strategies that integrate high response to vaccines. Furthermore, they have applied mathematical modelling methods to predict the effectiveness of vaccines in the field.
Using cutting-edge technology, they have engineered vaccine candidates capable of providing broad immunity against newly emerging strains of pathogens. At project end, the team have generated animal vaccine candidates against six major livestock pathogens affecting pigs, chickens and cattle.
All six vaccine candidates have been tested in the laboratory, and half of them in close-to-the-field conditions. Three are currently being considered by big pharmaceutical companies for potential industrial development.
A vaccine-led future?
SAPHIR researchers have also evaluated the economic and sociological impact of several of the vaccine candidates. Weighing up the costs of each disease on different sectors of the farming industry and comparing them to the cost of vaccines has been an important part of the project work.
The team hope their efforts will change attitudes towards vaccination and improve their acceptance and use among livestock producers. A training programme, dissemination events to stakeholders, and an integrated health management website have been running alongside the research to help drive vaccine use.
In SAPHIR, weve delivered proof of concept for the efficacy and safety of several vaccines, says Schwartz. But the next steps will have to be carried out by big pharma, given that the costs of these steps are well beyond the possibilities of public support.
The team hope their research and approach to developing the vaccine candidates will drive the creation of successful vaccines for many other diseases, too.