MAY 01, 2018 12:45 PM PDT

A Vaccine for When Horses Get the Flu

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Horses, like humans, are susceptible to infections by the influenza virus. And like other animals, horses are capable of spreading the flu to humans, so vaccinating these animals is important for controlling the flu. In a new study from the University of Rochester Medical Center, scientists present a new vaccine to protect horses from the flu.

Flu vaccines for horses haven't been updated in more than 25 years, but researchers have developed a new live equine influenza vaccine that's safe and more protective. Credit: University of Rochester Medical Center

Unlike past vaccines, the new vaccine was designed with a live-attenuated flu virus. This means that the vaccine incorporates a weakened form of the virus, a technique shown to trigger a better immune response and provide protection from infection for longer. This is opposed to more traditional vaccines that include inactivated or “dead” flu viruses. Vaccines for the measles, mumps, rubella, rotavirus, smallpox, chickenpox, and yellow fever all include a live-attenuated virus.

Live-attenuated vaccines are not without their potential dangers. People with suppressed immune systems, such as those with certain diseases, the elderly, young children and babies, and people who have recently received an organ transplant, could fail to produce an adequate immune response to the vaccine, developing an infection instead.

The vaccines is given as a spray through the nose, created using “reserve genetics,” a genetic engineering technique that allows the opportunity for scientists to easily and quickly update the vaccine to match new circulating strains of equine flu. The entry point is the nose so the immune system begins its response before the live-attenuated virus makes its way to the lungs, where it can cause disease.

Recent tests with the new vaccine showed that it was successful at protecting both mice and horses against the currently circulating H3N8 equine influenza virus. There were no adverse side effects observed.

Vaccinating horses is one way to limit the number of bodies through which the flu virus can spread, reducing the risk of the virus spreading among humans. In addition to horses, dogs and pigs can be infected with multiple strains of the flu virus, giving the virus a vessel for mutating and creating new strains that existing vaccines don’t protect against.

Almost all horses infected with the virus eventually show symptoms (nasal discharge, coughing, wheezing). An as many horses often travel for events and breeding, the opportunities for the virus to spread are many, making vaccination even more important. Going forward, researchers plan to do more studies with the vaccine to test its efficacy and safety.

The present study was published in the journal Virology.

Sources: American Association of Equine Practitioners, Vaccines.gov, University of Rochester Medical Center

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 22, 2018
Immunology
SEP 22, 2018
Could Diet Protect Against Brain Inflammation?
Immune brain cell inflammation due to aging can be mitigated through a high fiber diet...
NOV 05, 2018
Drug Discovery
NOV 05, 2018
Anti-Parasitic Drug Improves Long-term Clinical Outcomes in Chagas Disease
In a recent study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, an anti-parasite drug by the name of ‘benznidazole’ may hold potential in impr...
NOV 13, 2018
Immunology
NOV 13, 2018
Yin & Yang: The Duality of Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts in Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic Cancer is a devastating disease. Fifty-five thousand new patients were diagnosed this year in the United States (1). It is painful and usua...
NOV 21, 2018
Immunology
NOV 21, 2018
Yin and Yang of Malaria
Researchers determine the affect of preventative treatment for malaria on infants...
NOV 26, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 26, 2018
A New Test for Fibromyalgia
Anyone who has experienced severe, chronic pain knows the long process it takes to get a correct diagnosis. Many people see an average of 5-6 specialists b...
DEC 04, 2018
Immunology
DEC 04, 2018
Natural HIV Resistance
A team of scientists discover unique immune reactions to the one percent of HIV infected patients that are able to fend off viral propagation without antiretroviral therapy...
Loading Comments...