USask developing a regional influenza vaccine for pigs

The college received $150,000 to develop influenza A virus vaccines
calendar icon 31 January 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Susan Detmer, associate professor of veterinary pathology at Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), was awarded $150,000 over three years to develop vaccines for pigs that are more effective against current strains of the influenza A virus than commercial products that have become out of date, according to a university-issued press release.

“We have been working towards a regional vaccine because we have dominant viruses within a region,” said Detmer, who has been doing influenza virus surveillance in pigs across Western Canada since 2011.

“So, within Alberta and Saskatchewan, we have five viruses that are dominant. We can put those five viruses in a vaccine, and it will protect most of the pigs in our region. The same can be done for the five viruses that are dominant in the Manitoba region.”

She is also developing a vaccine for flu strains in the Quebec region, on a fee-for-service basis.

“So, we can have three different vaccines or five different vaccines that will cover all of Canada because there’s enough consistency and cross-reactivity between these virus that we should be able to get to most of the pigs,” she said.

Of special concern is a novel strain of the flu, Alpha H1N2, that first appeared in Manitoba in 2013, and in Saskatchewan two years later, and subsequently has become a dominant strain. It has increased the mortality rate of nursery pigs by five per cent to 10%, and has a high zoonosis potential, meaning it can infect humans and then reinfect pigs through human contact. This pig-origin influenza A viruses infected a swine worker in Minnesota in 2016 and in Manitoba in 2021.

In developing the vaccine, Detmer is also testing its efficacy for having antibodies in immunized pregnant sows show up in their colostrum to protect piglets during their first six to eight weeks of life when they are most at risk of severe complications from influenza.

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