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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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Nominations for 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards now open

News Story 1
 People across the UK are being urged to nominate a standout animal champion for the 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards.

The awards recognise those who have worked tirelessly to improve animal welfare, campaigned on behalf of animals, or shown true bravery. Previous winners include comedian John Bishop, who was awarded Celebrity Animal Champion of the Year, and 11-year-old Lobby Cantwell, who raised more than £1,000 for the charity through mountain climbs and bike rides.

To submit a nomination or find out more about the awards visit the RSPCA website. Nominations will remain open until 4 pm on Friday, March 15.  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
New £1m project to investigate dairy cow lameness

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is leading a new £1 million research project to investigate the causes of lameness in dairy cows.

One in three dairy cows are affected by lameness every day in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £250 milion annually.

The project will take three years to complete and is due to finish by November 2021.

Professor Georgios Banos of SRUC commented: “In addition to pain and discomfort to the animal, lameness is associated with decreased milk production and inflated farm costs.

“Among cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. Understanding the reasons behind this will help us develop targeted preventive practices contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.”