health and the equine economy. Recent years have witnessed major EHV-1 outbreaks in the USA and Europe, sometimes leading to the neurological form of the disease, Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM).
EHV-1/EHM outbreaks not only jeopardise equine health, but they also necessitate strict biosecurity and quarantine measures that restrict horse transportation, racing, and competitions. As a result, the equine industry incurs significant economic losses, including costs related to horse ownership, equine businesses, and the industry as a whole. Moreover, the loss of severely affected horses only exacerbates the financial impact.
To tackle this issue, the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has announced funding for two research projects.
Gisela Soboll Hussey of Michigan State University will receive a grant to study the use of nucleic acid vaccines to protect from EHV-1 / EHM.
“This proposal is to develop a novel mRNA-based equine herpesvirus (EHV) vaccine that protects horses from EHV-1 myeloencephalopathy and will also likely cross-protect against other equine herpesviruses” she explains.
She adds:”The goal of this application is to exploit innovations in RNA vaccine technology that have come about during the COVID-19 pandemic and are currently the first line of defense. We propose to refine this mRNA vaccine technology for immunization of horses. Based on our extensive preliminary data, we will test vaccines containing the parts of EHV-1 that are important for inducing protective immunity in horses.”
In separate research, Bettina Wagner and Diego Diel at Cornell University aim to develop an effective DNA vaccine for equine herpesvirus to protect horses against infection and disease and to prevent EHV outbreaks.
“We are combining our expertise in equine immunology and EHV-1 research (Dr. Wagner) and virology and vaccine design (Dr. Diel) to first perform a comprehensive analysis of the best DNA vaccine candidate and then test the optimized vaccine candidate for its protective effects in horses. The DNA vaccine platform that we are testing in this project has already been used successfully for induction of immunity and protection from infectious disease in other species.”
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