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Vaccine put to the test as PEDv outbreak continues

Clinical trials have shown high hopes for the vaccine, which has been deployed to a producer in the PEDv hot zone in southeast Manitoba

[Updated June 16, 2017] A vaccine that researchers say has been over 90 per cent effective against PEDv in clinical trials is on track for another field test in southeast Manitoba.

Dr. Volker Gerdts, associate director of research at VIDO-InterVac and one of the lead researchers on the project, says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) approved the vaccine for testing under real-world outbreak conditions. Vaccine has been shipped to one producer in southeast Manitoba as a result.

“What we’re doing there is essentially assessing the vaccine in the field,” Gerdts said.

A similar trial took place in June 2016, when three barns in southeast Manitoba became infected.

The vaccine targets the four most common strains of PEDv found in North America, including those confirmed in Manitoba.

“It’s a vaccine for the sows; so you vaccinate the sows twice before they give birth to the piglets and then they’re passing on the immunity to the suckling piglet,” Gerdts said.

Immunity is passed through milk and colostrum, VIDO-InterVac told the Manitoba Co-operator in July 2015.

PEDv concern often centres around piglets as the disease may cause 80 to 100 per cent mortality in infant animals. As of 2016, it was estimated the disease had cost the North American pork industry over eight million pigs and $400 million since 2013.

VIDO-InterVac’s vaccine has been in development since late 2013, after the first U.S. outbreak caused large-scale losses south of the international border but before the first confirmed Canadian case in January 2014.

Gerdts and his team quickly completed an animal model for the disease and moved into animal trials. Several vaccine candidates were tested and a front-runner chosen for later trials. Within a year, Gerdts and his team had developed and tested the prospective vaccine.

“I guess it’s really a combination of us putting a lot of internal resources onto this project and then, also, being able because of our infrastructure to work with PEDv in high containment,” he said.

VIDO-InterVac’s location at the University of Saskatchewan features a 250,000-square-foot facility, one of the largest Level 2 and Level 3 containment research facilities in North America.

“We had the capacity to do a lot of these trials in parallel,” Gerdts said.

By December 2015, the CFIA had approved the vaccine for field testing and, in August 2016, VIDO-InterVac announced it had partnered with European company Huvepharma to commercialize it.

Huvepharma could not be reached for comment at the time of printing, but testing under commercial conditions is ongoing, according to the VIDO-InterVac website.

Gerdts says it is his hope that producers will be able to access the vaccine as soon as possible.

“It really depends on the regulatory authorities right now and also on our commercial partner who has now taken a licence to this vaccine and is commercializing it, which means they have to manufacture the vaccine and then get permission from the regulators to sell it in the U.S. and in Canada,” he said.

News of the potential PEDv buffer was welcomed by the pork sector. Andrew Dickson, Manitoba Pork Council general manager, says other vaccines against PEDv exist, but have met with mixed results.

“They haven’t proven totally effective and I’m not sure where the VIDO vaccine is at in terms of getting through the approval process,” he said. “There’s been some experimental trials with it on the farm to see how it’ll work under licence.”

The latest on-farm trial comes as Manitoba’s PEDv record soars to 30, with 20 reported this year alone.*

Six cases were confirmed in the space of four days in the second week of June. Two new cases were found June 6 within five kilometres of an already infected site, while a nursery operation outside of any existing disease area was confirmed June 7, the Manitoba Pork Council said. Seven more cases were confirmed June 8-14.

“Numerous situations have occurred within the recent outbreak in which service providers have entered a yard without barn personnel being aware and without procedures being followed to protect the disease-free status of the site,” the pork council reported June 7. “Manitoba Pork urges producers to control access into their yard and be in touch with every person entering the yard to ensure that biosecurity protocols are not breached.”

Biosecurity gaps were also noted during a June 2 call-in town hall.

*Article was updated to reflect the current number of PED cases reported.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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