Personalised medicine tailor-made to have the greatest efficacy on individual animals could be available to vets in 10 years, a leading academic has said.

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Designer medicines and genomic profiling could be a standard part of the vet’s toolbox in years to come. Image: science photo / Fotolia.

John Harding, professor in swine production medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, said designer medicines and genomics could be a standard part of the vet’s toolbox, helping them to tailor treatment for specific animals and fight antimicrobial resistance.

One size doesn’t fit all

Prof Harding said: “If you look at the way we vaccinate in the swine industry, companion animal and livestock sectors, it really is a case of one size fits all.

“I think we have to be more cognisant of the fact one animal is not the same as the next. Genetically, we are all made different, and for good reason, but with that comes problems with vaccine response, as well as opportunities for improvement. The vet has to understand [animals in the] barn are heterogeneous… and we have to change our strategies to accommodate the differences.”

One solution being developed at research level is genomic profiling, whereby researchers perform genotyping on blood samples to try to work out if an animal’s genome is related to its susceptibility or resistance to particular disease or overall disease resilience.

Revolutionising disease control

It is hoped, in the future, all food-producing animals will have some sort of genomic profile accompanying their records, which will tell vets, farmers and traders how susceptible or resilient they are to various diseases.

As such, a vet could look at an animal’s genomic profile and tailor the treatment or vaccination strategy accordingly. The same principles could also be applied to companion animals.

“We are moving towards an era of personalised medicine,” Prof Harding said. “In human medicine, I think we understand what that means, but I don’t think we do in the livestock sector, but if we make use of it in a positive way… it will revolutionise the way we look at disease control and we need it because what we are doing is not enough.”

  • Read the full article in the 12 September issue of Veterinary Times.
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