Prescription Vaccines Target Emerging Swine Diseases

5 April 2017, at 6:02am

ANALYSIS - With the rapid pace of swine pathogen mutation, could prescription vaccines be a strategy to fight these emerging diseases?

Dr. Rick Sibbel, executive director of technical services at Merck Animal Health, speaks to ThePigSite's Sarah Mikesell about solutions to emerging swine diseases.

"Disease is like a lot of things, and it changes frequently and so we build vaccines to the best possible disease protection or prevention that we can," said Dr. Rick Sibbel, executive director of technical services at Merck Animal Health.

"But as we monitor the swine population, we learn that these viruses and bacteria do change over time. At the end of the day, when these changes occur, we have to be prepared because our vaccines that used to work may begin to not work quite as well."

Building Prescription Vaccines

In 2015, Merck Animal Health acquired Harrisvaccines. Along with the acquisition came a unique technology that can take pieces of genetic code and create a vaccine that's very specific to the different strains of disease in individual herds.

"As we look at this technology, it's pretty exciting because it creates a prescription vaccine environment that allows very specific, customized vaccines for situations where the disease has changed a bit and the old vaccines just don't work as well," Dr. Sibbel said. "This is early in the game and we're learning fast, but there are many applications to this technology."

In order to create a prescription vaccine, the Merck Animal Health team works closely with the herd veterinarian to outline the disease history of the herd. Diagnostic samples from animals are analysed looking at the genomic structure of the viruses or the bacteria in the herd.

The process is designed to determine if the disease is changing and if they can build a customized vaccine that's specific and protective to the herd in question.

This technology is currently being used in herds challenged with swine influenza and PRRS, among others.

Global Application?

Harrisvaccines had been US-focused and the first prescription vaccines were built according to the USDA standard and regulations in the US.

"We believe that it has applications beyond our US borders, and our global teams are really excited to begin the process of investigating that possibility," said Dr. Sibbel.