An Ohio State University researcher has created a unique vaccine to protect swine from porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), a viral disease that causes direct losses to U.S. swine producers to the tune of $664 million a year.
Unlike the current live vaccines used to prevent PRRS, the new vaccine uses an inactivated virus to eliminate adverse reactions in pigs, such as abortion, sick piglets and further spread of the disease, said Renukaradhya (Aradhya) Gourapura, an associate professor in the university's Food Animal Health Research Program (FAHRP), part of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).
The largest agbioscience university research center in the U.S., OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
The new vaccine also is enclosed in biodegradable nanoparticles, which improves its efficacy and its absorption by a pig's immune system.
"Our tests have shown that two doses of this vaccine, administered intranasally along with a potent mucosal adjuvant, achieve 100 percent protection in pigs against genetically variant PRRS virus," said Gourapura, who started working on this project in 2009.
"Current PRRS virus vaccines are injected in the muscle, but this method of vaccination induces very little immunity in the respiratory system, where it's actually needed," he said. "Applying the vaccine through the nose ensures that it goes directly into the respiratory system, where it's better taken up by immune cells and induces adequate local mucosal immunity against the virus."
A patented technology, the nanoparticle-based PRRS virus vaccine is made from a biodegradable polymer of lactic acid and glycolic acid, known as PLGA. PLGA is an agent approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in human vaccines and cancer drug-delivery systems. This is the first time the PLGA-based nanotechnology is being used with food animals.
"Our vaccine has proven to be completely safe in tests so far, with no side effects associated with it," Gourapura said. "The use of nanoparticles allows the vaccine to stay in the pig's system for four to eight weeks without being degraded. The vaccine is also shelf-stable. We have tested it for one year without showing any loss of quality."
PRRS is one of the most economically significant diseases impacting swine production worldwide. First recognized in the United States in 1987, the virus responsible for the disease was isolated by OARDC associate director David Benfield (then at South Dakota State University) and others in 1992. Now, PRRS is estimated to be present in 60 percent of U.S. herds. Symptoms include fever, respiratory distress, anorexia and weakening of the immune system that makes pigs more susceptible to other infections. In pregnant sows, it causes abortion.