Researchers Hope to Harness New Information on Brachyspira to Develop Effective Vaccines

Farmscape for October 13, 2021

Full Interview 10:24 Listen

Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine hope to use new information learned about the mechanism of Brachyspira infection to develop vaccines to protect pigs from the bacteria. Brachyspira is a family of bacteria, some species of which cause disease while other species are simply part of a healthy gut and are harmless. The Western College of Veterinary Medicine, in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, is exploring the mechanisms of infection in hopes of developing vaccines to prevent Brachyspira associated disease. Dr. Matheus Costa, an Assistant Professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and an adjunct professor with Utrecht University, explains the challenge is that the bacteria appears capable inhibiting immunity.

Clip-Dr. Matheus Costa-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:
We’ve learned that Brachyspira shuts down one specific response cascade that activate B cells and allows them to mature and produce antibodies. Our current hypothesis is that Brachyspira shuts down that B cell maturation cascade and that prevents the pig from developing a protective immunity through antibodies. If Brachyspira is not invading the cell, antibodies are one the main defence mechanisms, secreted antibodies into the large intestine. If Brachyspira is shutting down that response, then it makes sense why pigs that are exposed to the bacteria will develop disease again. We think that is a bottleneck on why it is so challenging to develop vaccines for Brachyspira because when we use approaches such as inactivated cells or subunit vaccines which are just portions of the Brachyspira cells, maybe we included those portions of the cell that could lead to inactivation of B cells.

Dr Costa says the hope is to exploit that knowledge to improve the chances of developing an effective vaccine.

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