By Melissa Erickson
Staff Writer, Ames Tribune
Harrisvaccines has distributed more than 770,000 doses of a newly developed vaccine to treat a deadly pig virus spotted in the United States for the first time this year.
Known as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDV, the virus was detected in the U.S. in April, with the first cases of the virus in Iowa, the nation’s top pork-producing state, being confirmed in May. The virus poses no known public health threat and only affects pigs. The clinical signs of the virus include severe diarrhea and vomiting.
An October summary provided by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians reported nearly 200 confirmed cases of PEDV in Iowa alone.
Ames-based Harrisvaccines began developing a vaccine “pretty much immediately after the first couple cases were confirmed,” according to company spokesman Joel Harris.
Called iPED and designed for sows, the vaccine induces what’s called neutralizing antibodies which protect the sow against the virus.
“We have studies in progress right now to determine the level of antibody we need to induce in the sow to protect the piglets,” Harris said. “Those studies are ongoing.”
The vaccine is currently available through veterinary prescriptions only.
“We do know that the majority of the vaccine being used now is in animals already exposed to the virus,” Harris said. “The hope eventually would be to protect animals that have not been exposed.”
“The virus right now is being used to reduce the virus load in a swine system and to clean up really chronically infected barns or facilities,” he said.
Harrisvaccines is working with the Center for Veterinary Biologics in Ames to receive USDA conditional licensing to sell the vaccine commercially.
The conditional license, Harris said, is “a faster track approach to get something approved when there’s an emergency situation or there’s no other product on the market.”
“We want to extend our distribution to other producers, make it more easily available and get that USDA stamp of approval,” Harris said. “Once we get that, it will make it easier for us to distribute (the vaccine) internationally.”
First diagnosed in Great Britain more than 40 years ago, there have since been sporadic outbreaks of PEDV in Europe, with it becoming an endemic pig disease in Asia since the early 1980s. It is not clear how the virus spread to the U.S.
“We know that it’s 99 percent related to the strain that circulates in China,” Harris said.
Harris said the company is “definitely” looking at distributing the vaccine internationally in the future.
As of Dec. 17, roughly 770,000 doses had been distributed, mostly in Iowa and North Carolina, and also in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and South Carolina.
“We want to extend our distribution to other producers, make it more easily available and get that USDA stamp of approval,” Harris said.Harrisvaccines, founded in 2006, employs about 30 people. The company specializes in products for the swine, cattle, equine and farmed shrimp industries.
Harrisvaccines, founded in 2006, employs about 30 people. The company specializes in products for the swine, cattle, equine and farmed shrimp industries, and earlier this year announced plans to expand its vaccine development into the companion pet industry.