Innovative vaccines to prevent post-weaning diarrhoea in pigs

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Post weaning diarrhoea (PWD) is costly to pig production, causes welfare issues and contributes significantly to the problem of antimicrobial resistance. Treatment of PWD in the short 7-week post-weaning-period accounts for more than 1/3 of antimicrobial use for animals in Demark. Zinc-oxide is currently used to reduce the problem, but according to EU regulations, this practice must be out-phased by medio 2022. There is an urgent need to find sustainable ways to prevent PWD in pigs. Failure to do so will reduce productivity and increase the use of antimicrobials. In Denmark, the most important PWD-pathogens are toxigenic Escherichia coli, Lawsonia intracellularis and Brachyspira pilisicoli. Current vaccines only result in partial protection against PWD. Researchers at University of Copenhagen have developed a novel principle for vaccines based on viral capsid-like structures. For other diseases, the use of these novel vaccines results in protective immunity, which far exceeds current vaccines. This project hypothesizes that this novel vaccine-principle can form the basis for effective and valuable vaccines against PWD.

The project aims to develop vaccines against PWD, and to investigate the optimal way to use these to reduce the problem of PWD, also in the absence of preventive use of zinc oxide. The vaccines will be directed towards the major PWD pathogens in Denmark, but of importance for the business potential, they can easily be complemented with antigens from pathogens of relevance outside the country. The project aims to develop prototypes which will be tested under field condition (TRL7). The novel vaccines are expected to be ready for the market by 2024.

The objectives are:

  1. To develop subunit vaccines directed against the major PWD pathogens.
  2. To determine the optimal vaccine strategy for vaccination against PWD.
  3. To determine the effect of vaccination against PWD on clinical episodes, pathogen loads and antimicrobials use.