Scientists at the University of Saskatchewan have developed and tested a prototype vaccine that could protect the North American swine industry from a virus that has killed more than eight million pigs since 2013.
Called the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV), this virus hit the U.S. in 2013 and spread to Canada in 2014. According to a University of Saskatchewan press release, it was first discovered in Europe, and has become problematic in Asian countries. PEDV occurs only in pigs and can kill up to 100 per cent of infected piglets. It’s a coronavirus, a virus group which includes important emerging human diseases such as SARS and MERS.
To address the problem, the university’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) launched a vaccine development project using its new containment Level 3 facility. “Our new facility, InterVac, provided us with the containment infrastructure to develop a vaccine and demonstrate it protected up to 100 per cent of the piglets,” says Dr. Volker Gerdts, research director of VIDO-InterVac.
The successful vaccine results have attracted the interest of several animal health companies including Huvepharma, which has partnered with VIDO-InterVac to develop the technology for commercial production in North America. “This is an exciting partnership with a world-class organization,” says Dr. Boris Gavrilov, senior scientist for biologics development at Huvepharma. “Our goal is to have the vaccine available for commercial use as soon as possible to help stop producer losses.”
The vaccine is now undergoing field testing in Saskatchewan, as well as in Manitoba where it is being used to help protect piglets from a recent PEDV outbreak. “This is great news for the swine industry both in Canada and globally, as PEDV continues to threaten unaffected regions and impact areas where it is already present,” says Sask Pork general manager Neil Ketilson.
The PEDV vaccine development project has been supported by a variety of funders, including the Government of Saskatchewan (ADF), Sask Pork, and the Canadian Swine Health Network.