Stomping out equine herpesvirus
New vaccine development to protect against equine herpesvirus (EHV) has begun, according to the Animal Health Trust (AHT), an independent charity in the United Kingdom, employing more than 250 scientists, veterinarians and support workers.
In a press release, Dr. Neil Bryant of the AHT, who leads the research, said, “EHV is a major welfare concern for horses and foals and causes emotional, as well as financial, strains on horse owners and breeders around the world. It can strike any horse at any time, so a vaccine will be of global welfare benefit to all horses, including the thoroughbred and sports horse breeding industries, and would help control this serious and sometimes fatal disease.”
A quick refresh on the disease: It’s a viral infection that can cause respiratory disease, abortion and fatal illness in newborn foals, the press release states. The extra bummer—it can also cause neurological disease in adult horses, which may manifest as only a slight wobble up to complete paralysis.
The release further states that the disease can strike any horse, any time. For our equine buddies, this virus can lay dormant until the horse gets stressed. Then the horse owner transports the horse or mixes him with new horses, and bam! Neurologic signs manifest out of nowhere.
But isn’t there a vaccine for EHV already? Yes. But, according to the AHT release, “there is still no vaccine licensed to protect against the neurologic form of the disease, and abortions still occur in highly vaccinated horse populations.” The release points to a high number of abortions in fully vaccinated animals in Hertfordshire in 2016 as evidence that a more effective vaccine is needed.
“We’re at the beginning of a very exciting and potentially groundbreaking vaccine development,” Dr. Bryant said in the release. “Through our research, we will construct different viruses with attenuating mutations and assess their suitability as MLVs (modified live viruses). We hope our findings will enable further development by vaccine manufacturers in creating an effective vaccine to protect against the serious clinical signs induced by EHV-1.”