A vaccine for a widespread pig disease partially developed at Iowa State University has been approved for use in South America.
Pat Halbur, the interim dean of ISU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is a co-inventor of the patent alongside researchers at Virginia Tech and Fort Dodge Animal Health, a company that was later acquired and now exists under Zoetis, the world’s largest animal medicine and vaccine producer.
The vaccine protects pigs against porcine circovirus (PCV), first discovered in 1974. PCV and its offshoot, PCV2, can cause diarrhea, pneumonia, wasting and reproductive problems, including fetal deaths.
Halbur said the PCV2 vaccine was created using research from the college’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, which processes tens of thousands of animal disease cases per year from samples submitted from across the country.
The virus exists within virtually every pig herd in the world.
“Anywhere there’s pigs, this is a big problem,” he said.
The ISU vaccine is one of a handful of PCV2 vaccines on the market today and have been available in various markets since 2006. Zoetis, the world’s largest producer of animal medicines and vaccines, currently produces the ISU vaccine.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Patent Office approved a new patent that Halbur said was needed to allow that particular vaccine to be allowed for use in South America.
Halbur said the vaccine works by combining a synthesized version of PCV2, which causes most of the serious symptoms, with traits from PCV cousin that doesn’t cause disease, allowing pig immune systems to learn to attack strains of PCV2.
An estimated 95 percent of pigs in North America are vaccinated. Halbur said his vaccine, or any other vaccine on the market, can be extremely effective against the disease if every farmer properly uses it properly among the entire herd.
The virus itself is strong enough to survive outside of hosts, so it likely never will go the way of smallpox or other eradicated diseases. But if used properly, the vaccines can prevent illness and casualties from claiming animal lives and cutting into farmer’s finances.
“When we see an outbreak of this disease, typically we’re thinking they didn’t give the vaccine right,” he said.
Halbur is also one of three finalists for the permanent dean position for the college.