A new vaccine could revolutionise the way bovine respiratory disease is tackled – and save the lives of vulnerable humans and animals in the process.
The vaccine against bovine respiratory syncytial virus (bRSV) has been described as a “scientific breakthrough” that could have significant ramifications for human and veterinary medicine.
Results from the research – part of a collaboration involving The Pirbright Institute – revealed vaccinating calves with a stabilised version of a bRSV protein induced high levels of immunity, protecting them from respiratory disease, which can cost US$1 billion (£780 million) per year globally through loss of life, productivity and trade.
The virus is related to human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV). No licensed vaccine is available for humans.
Although potential hRSV vaccines have been tested in mice, rats and primate models, the virus does not naturally infect them, which complicates test result evaluation.
However, bRSV is related to hRSV. Therefore, studying the infection in calves not only shows how it progresses, but enables scientists to test vaccine effectiveness in a natural host.
Geraldine Taylor, an honorary fellow at The Pirbright Institute, who jointly led the study, described the findings as “quite remarkable”.
Dr Taylor said humans were repeatedly infected with hRSV throughout their lives, but it only manifested itself as a common cold in healthy adults. However, infected babies and the elderly can develop bronchitis and pneumonia in the same way as calves.
Therefore, a new vaccine capable of boosting neutralising antibodies could not only protect humans and their babies, but also be used in the veterinary field, with vets vaccinating pregnant cows to help protect calves and reduce losses.
However, more work is required to fully understand the vaccine and its associated uses.
The study was published in npj Vaccines.
- Read the full story in the 1 May issue of Veterinary Times.