Live Vaccines Could Mean Fewer Veterinary Visits

Did you know that our pets can contract the influenza virus?  We may someday be able to thank biomedical research for helping us avoid another trip to the veterinary office. A team of researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry has developed two live vaccines that may help prevent the highly contagious canine influenza, as well as improve human health.

Led by Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the team developed a live vaccine that replicates in the main point of entry for the virus—a dog’s nose—which could prevent the virus from spreading to the rest of the body. The results of the study showed that the vaccine is not only safe, but also more effective in protecting dogs against the H3N8 canine influenza virus than currently available inactivated vaccines.

Martinez-Sobrido’s team also used a new technique to remove the NS1 protein from the H3N8 canine influenza virus, successfully weakening the flu virus so an immune response is created without the unpleasant accompanying illness. This approach has been shown to potentially be more safe and effective than the traditional inactivated H3N8 vaccine.

Next, the team will test the two live vaccine approaches in clinical trials with dogs. They ultimately hope to address the spread of influenza in shelters and kennels, as well as from dogs to humans. This research is further being used to address other dog flu viruses, including the H3N2 canine influenza. Early studies indicate that the H3N2 live-attenuated vaccine outperforms the only currently available inactivated vaccine in protecting against the H3N2 virus.

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The Undeniable Truth: Lab Animals Are Helping Our Pets

You may have already seen a recent blog post by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) that showcases just one of the many important missions of biomedical research: saving endangered species. From in vitro fertilization to helping stop the spread of disease in the wild, animal research is working to make sure that endangered and threatened species of animals live on for generations to come. But what is animal research and testing doing to help our pets at home? FBR took a closer look at that question in a story posted on their website yesterday.

Vaccines, cancer treatments, and anxiety medications, for example, were developed through animal research and improve the health not only of people, but companion  dogs and cats. Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs and their tumors are very similar to those found in people. Clinical trials with dogs and cats have yielded valuable data to test the effectiveness of drugs and treatment regimens. In fact, more and more pet owners are enrolling their companions in clinical trials.

But there’s more. Drugs like Prozac developed for people, through studies with rats, mice, and dogs, are effective in alleviating anxiety in dogs. Studied in rodents, pigs, and primates, Rapamycin, the commonly prescribed anti-rejection medication for humans, is now given to dogs for improved heart health. Cats with hyperthyroid disease are treated with radioiodine – a common treatment for human thyroid disease.

Vaccinations are essential in ensuring the future health of both people and animals. Back in 1885, Louis Pasteur developed a rabies vaccine with rabbits. In 1982, researchers studying dogs were able to create the vaccine against canine parvovirus (often referred to as parvo), saving the lives of countless puppies. Vaccine development for animal-specific diseases often offer invaluable information in the hunt to rid the world of human disease, as well. Given the fact that feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is very similar in structure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), studies in FIV provide insights which could inform the development of an HIV vaccine.

It’s very clear that without animal research scientists and veterinarians would not be armed with the knowledge necessary to improve the health of both wild and companion animals. Please take a moment to read FBR’s latest installment on animal research helping animals and share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media. Feel free to share your thoughts in the blog section on FBR’s site.

Unintended Consequences for Maryland Research Animals

Veterinarian Shannon Stutler explains her opposition to a Maryland research animal adoption bill in a March 29 Baltimore Sun op-ed column, Unintended Consequences for Maryland Research Animals.

House Bill 594, the Humane Adoption of Companion Animals Used in Research Act of 2016, is now working its way through the Maryland Senate.  The bill passed the Assembly.  Dr. Stutler opposes the bill, calling it simply "feel good" legislation proposed by animal rights activists who seek the immediate end of all animal-based research.  It would impose on Maryland's research and teaching institutions onerous mandates that would do little to support animals and could have an unintended consequence: increasing the number of animals in Maryland's shelters that may be euthanized rather than adopted.  The adoption of post-study animals is already widely embraced by the research community. Many institutions already have customized, responsible and detailed adoption policies managed by veterinary specialists familiar with the special considerations and needs of retired research animals. For the sake of the animals, Dr. Stutler urges Maryland's legislators to reject this unnecessary legislation.

To read Dr. Stutler's op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, please click here.

NABR Compiles Valuable Information on Importance of Cats in Biomedical Research

In order to provide NABR’s members and the public with the most current and vital information about the important role that specific animal models play in the endeavor to conquer illness and disease, NABR has posted a page about the influence of feline models on biomedical research.  The information about cats joins NABR’s pages about other research animals like rodents, dogs, and nonhuman primates.

NABR’s review of feline models covers the influence they have had on aging and Alzheimer’s, cancer, genetics, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and vision research.  There are between 75-80 million cats in American homes today and given their immense popularity, this resource should provide a better understanding into the work to keep cats living longer and healthier lives while helping humans, as well.

To read NABR’s review of feline research, please take a moment to click here.