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Vaccine Stops Livestock Infections Without Antibiotics


(Stefanie Drenkow-Lolies, Pixabay)

5 October 2016. A veterinary medical team at Kansas State University developed a vaccine that protects livestock against dangerous liver and skin infections without antibiotics. Researchers led by veterinary pathologist Sanjeev Narayanan are also receiving a patent on their discovery, which they believe will help ranchers reduce their use of antibiotics and lessen their transmission to humans through the food supply.

The vaccine protects against infections from Fusobacterium necrophorum, an infectious bacteria that affects animals and in some instances can spread to humans. In cattle and sheep, Fusobacteria causes abscesses in the liver and on the animals’ feet, as well as a form of diphtheria in calves.

The most common treatment for Fusobacteria infections is antibiotics, but health authorities are becoming concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture that supports the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for example, began a voluntary plan with industry in December 2013 to phase out use of some antibiotics in food production.

The vaccine developed by Narayanan and colleagues first immunizes livestock against toxins produced by Fusobacteria that kill white blood cells known as leukocytes and Kupffer cells, natural protectors of liver tissue. Those leukotoxins make it possible for the bacteria to survive in the animal’s liver. Some current vaccines protect against the toxins, which reduce the severity of disease, but do not completely prevent it, and in some cases have undesirable side effects on animals.

The Kansas State vaccine adds a second component that blocks the actions of a protein known as 40 kDa adhesin. This protein allows Fusobacteria to attach to the wall of the rumen, a compartment in the stomach of cattle. The vaccine generates antibodies neutralizing 40 kDa adhesin, and thus preventing the bacteria from attaching to the rumen, and infections from occurring.

The university says the vaccine is being tested in cattle and may eventually be formulated for sheep and even people. Narayan’s lab received funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop the vaccine, as well as Elanco, the animal health division of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. In September 2016, Elanco joined other business and public sector representatives at the One Health Summit meeting in Washington, D.C. calling for increased efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance, including within the food supply.

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