Friday, 2 August 2013

Delay to extension of Hendra virus vaccine period...it's not a ferret's life!

Based on ABC NewsYahoo News

Who'd wanna be a ferret? 

They are great for growing influenza viruses and testing their ability to transmit between animals as a model for human-to-human transmission. Ferrets are apparently also useful for hosting Hendra virus (HeV) replication. 


Because ferrets are cheaper and easier to test vaccines on than horses, they are used as negative control animals for HeV vaccine studies like the one by Dr Deborah Middleton, veterinary pathologist at Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) was conducting (the vaccine was created and developed by CSIRO and Pfizer). 


This study was aiming to confirm that the current Hendra vaccine booster could be given every 12-months, rather than every 6-months, as it currently is. This would be a saving of ~$100/horse/year.


UPDATE: Thanks to Shane Granger, @gmggranger for more realistic costings which equate to $165/horse + microchipping at the first visit (if not already done) or some savings for more than 1 horse: 


Unfortunately, the study failed because the unvaccinated ferret control group did not become ill after being infected. This means the experiment couldn't show that the vaccine was protecting against the virus upon challenge. 

The problem was traced to a bad vial of HeV. The lab virus used to infect the animals was not as potent as expected of a real life, or "wild",  infection of horses.


Vaccination of horses is encouraged by Biosecurity Queensland to fend off the virus is lethal in viruses, in about half of human who come into close contact with infected animals and can infect dogs also as seen recently at an infected property in New South Wales and in August 2011 on a property in Queensland.


This year (2013), the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland (RNA) has mandated that all horses attending or competing at its Royal Queensland Show (Ekka, held in Brisbane, Queensland) should be vaccinated for HeV.