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Breakthrough in hunt for R. equi vaccine
R. equi is a deadly disease that causes severe, insidiously progressive pneumonia.

Disease causes severe pneumonia and can affect other organs

US researchers have made a significant breakthrough in the pursuit of a vaccine against Rhodococcus equi.

A study published in PLOS One describes the trial of a vaccine, which scientists say has the potential to save thousands of foals every year. The research was carried out by researchers at Texas A&M University and Harvard Medical School.

Senior author Dr Noah Cohen said: “After many decades of efforts, our research, funded by the Morris Animal Foundation, has led to the first effective vaccine protecting folks against infection with R.equi, considered the most common and important form of pneumonia in foals older than a few weeks of age.”

R. equi is a deadly disease that causes severe, insidiously progressive pneumonia. With a 20 to 40 per cent fatality rate, the condition can also affect the bones, abdominal lymph nodes, joints, eyes and brain.

In the trial, Dr Cohen and his team set out to see if vaccinating mares at three and six weeks prior to the birth of their foals could protect their young against foal pneumonia.

They found that antibodies that ward off pneumonia were transferred to the foals via the mares’ colostrum, which was critical to establish as horses lack the ability to transfer antibodies through the placenta. Most importantly, those antibodies were able to protect almost all the foals born to vaccinated mares from contracting pneumonia.

The team then carried out a small, randomised, controlled study of nine foals with R.equi. Five foals were given serum with high levels of antibodies against R equi and four were not. All five foals receiving the hyperimmune serum were protected against R equi pneumonia, whereas the foals that received standard plasma all developed pneumonia.

Researchers say that while further safety testing is ongoing, the early results appear to support the safe and effective use of this novel foal vaccine.  Furthermore, the results suggest that immunising donor horses with the vaccine could be used to produce plasma, which foals could be transfused to prevent R. equi pneumonia.

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New road sign to protect small wildlife

News Story 1
 Transport secretary Chris Grayling has unveiled a new road sign to help cut traffic accidents and protect small wildlife, particularly hedgehogs.

Local authorities and animal welfare groups are being asked to identify accident and wildlife hotspots where the sign - which features a hedgehog - should be located.

Government figures show that more than 600 people were injured in road accidents involving animals in 2017, and four people were killed. These figures do not include accidents involving horses. The new sign will be used to warn motorists in areas where there are large concentrations of small wild animals, including squirrels, badgers, otters and hedgehogs.  

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NOAH members re-elect Jamie Brannan as chair

Jamie Brannan, senior Vice President of Zoetis, has been re-elected as chair of NOAH for 2019/20, during this year’s AGM, held in London.

Mr Brannan joined Zoetis and the NOAH board in 2016, becoming NOAH’s vice-chair in 2018 and replacing Gaynor Hillier as chair later that year.

He commented: “I am extremely pleased to have been elected by the NOAH membership and am proud to be able to represent our industry at such a critical time for the UK animal health industry. I look forward to driving forward our new NOAH Strategy and to working with our members, old and new, in the coming year.”