U.K. researchers develop immunity-boosting BRSV vaccine

The vaccine is being called a “scientific breakthrough”

By Veterinary Practice News Editors

Viruses can be devastating, especially among domestic herd animals and companion animals like kennel-bound dogs that share close quarters.

One such virus that affects primarily beef and dairy calves is bovine respiratory syncytial virus, or BRSV, causing $1 billion in worldwide losses annually due to calf deaths and loss in trade, according to calfology.com

But a new vaccine is being hailed as a “scientific breakthrough” and could be a game changer in the prevention and resulting devastation of BRSV.

Using a stabilized version of the BRSV protein, a team of researchers from the U.K. boosted natural BRSV antibodies, which occur in 65 to 81 percent of the U.S. cattle population, reports calfology.com.

The Pirbright Institute (TPI), a government-funded English research organization devoted to the study and prevention of infectious diseases in farm animals, was one of the lead parties in creating and testing the new vaccine.

Geraldine Taylor, Ph.D., an honorary TPI fellow, who co-led the study, called the findings “quite remarkable.”

BRSV primarily affects beef calves (6 weeks to 13 months of age) and diary calves (2 weeks to 9 months of age), according to calfology.com.

During a BRSV outbreak, TPI said that mortality can be as high as one out of every five calves affected. 

A vaccine for BRSV would not only significantly reduce financial losses suffered each year by beef and dairy producers, but it also would encourage development of a vaccine for the closely related human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV). 

Taylor said people are infected with HRSV again and again throughout their lives, but in adults it shows up as a common cold; however, infected babies and the elderly can develop complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, just as calves with BRSV can.

While more study is in order, a BRSV vaccine shown to boost immunity would allow veterinarians to vaccinate pregnant cows, which in turn would inoculate their unborn calves against developing BRSV.

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