Network Should Help Spur Vaccine Development
Scientists with the ARS Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Maryland)
Agricultural Research Center (BARC)
will join scientists from around the country and the world in a new project
that will ultimately accelerate the characterization and treatment of a range
of animal diseases.
The project, which was announced Feb. 7, will help researchers
develop tools needed to create improved vaccines and tests for animal diseases
that threaten agriculture and the food supply.
The U.S. Veterinary Immune Reagent Network is designed to
coordinate efforts of the veterinary immunology research community. The
USDA is funding the
initiative with a $2.15-million grant for a core of 8 research groups with
collaborative efforts by more than 40 researchers in USDA, university,
institutional, and industry labs. Support for this initiative was generated
during the 2004 ARS Animal Immunology workshop hosted by the ARS National
Program Leaders for
The initiative's goal is to develop
biological tools, or reagents, that will detect and measure animals' disease
responses. These reagents will be used to help diagnose a wide variety of
illnesses, improve vaccines, and in some cases function as biotherapeutics to
produce changes or serve as prophylactic treatments.
Research is to focus on cattle, poultry, horses, swine, catfish
and salmonids including salmon, trout and char.
Massachusetts-Amherst veterinary immunologist Cynthia Baldwin will lead the
cattle group and serve as principal investigator for the overall project. At
BARC's Animal Parasitic
Lunney, an immunogeneticist, will coordinate the network's research on
swine, and immunologist
Lillehoj will coordinate its poultry research.
To aid in the development of animal vaccines, compounds and
molecules such as antibodiesproteins that seek out antigens of
disease-causing bacteria and viruses and help destroy themwill be
developed into diagnostic and research reagents.
Desired reagents include monoclonal antibodies (mAb), which are
identical because they were produced by one type of immune cell and are clones
of a single parent cell. Scientists use mAbs to specifically bind to and detect
or purify a targeted substance. The antibodies are essential reagents for
sandwich ELISAs, an enzyme-based immunoassay method useful for measuring
Backers of the U.S. Veterinary Immune Reagent Network hope to
develop ELISAs that can specifically detect and quantitate the concentration of
soluble cytokine and chemokine proteins. Cells in the immune system communicate
with each other through hormonelike proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are
secreted by cells for each type of response and can suppress the activity of
the other. Chemokines are secreted proteins that help recruit various subsets
of leukocytes to areas of tissue damage to guide specific immunological
Lunney, Lillehoj and other coordinators have surveyed colleagues
with regard to existing reagents at other labs. They will identify proteins and
genes specific to their targeted species and submit cloned genetic material to
the central laboratory in Amherst. Many of the reagents developed will be
stored in cell banks in the United States and Europe and transferred to
commercial vendors for marketing so they'll be accessible to as many
researchers as possible. A portion of all reagents will be distributed free of
charge to key researchers for each species.
The mission of BARC's Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory
includes reducing the economic costs associated with parasites and infectious
organisms in livestock and poultry and reducing the risk of transmission of
animal diseases to humans.
that tools to improve vaccines and identify better adjuvants and
biotherapeutics are needed to improve pig health and well-being. Porcine
reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus is the biggest threat to swine
operations today, its financial impact estimated to exceed $500 million
annually. Other respiratory infections, such as Mycoplasma
hyopneumoniae, and other bacterial infections result in porcine
respiratory disease complex, which leads to decreased feed efficiency, higher
cull rates, increased days to market, and increased treatment costs during
late-finishing (18-20 weeks) pigs.
Costs involved in developing new drugs and live vaccines for
major poultry diseases including Marek's disease, respiratory disease,
and Infectious Bursal Disease (sometimes called Gumboro) can be
prohibitive. According to Lillehoj, the need to develop novel approaches and
alternative control strategies for many poultry diseases is underscored by
increased regulations and bans on the use of anticoccidial drugs. Coccidiosis
affects birds' ability to absorb nutrients and results in weight loss or death.
It alone costs the poultry industry more than $700 million a year.
Each species group has as a goal of producing 20 new reagents
over the next 4 years. The U.S. Veterinary Immune Reagent Network will consult
with an international advisory board of scientists and industry stakeholders to
decide which reagents should receive immediate attention.
For more information about the network's initiatives, contact
Joan Lunney or
ARS Scientists Honored for Technology
Two ARS teams have won the agency's top
technology transfer award for developing catfish vaccines and for designing a
humane lancet for drawing blood from laboratory mice. Both teams have received
the ARS 2005 Technology
Transfer Award for Outstanding Efforts. The award recognizes agency
scientists who develop new technology and transfer it to the marketplace. These
scientists and others were honored Feb. 7 at a ceremony at USDA headquarters.
Earlier attempts to vaccinate catfish
against diseases used killed vaccines. ARS researchers
Klesius developed modified live vaccines, which proved to be more
effective, less expensive, easier to administer and longer-lasting.
Scientists at the
Island Animal Disease Center, Greenport, N.Y., developed the improved
lancet as a humane way to draw blood from laboratory mice.
Top ARS Scientists for 2005
ARS honored its
top scientists for
2005 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Feb. 7. Included among the seven "Area
Senior Research Scientists of 2005" were three honored in the area of animal
production and Protection:
- Robert J.
Wall, animal physiologist, ARS
and Germplasm Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., for outstanding research
accomplishments in the introduction of recombinant DNA molecules into the
genome of agricultural animals.
- James B.
Russell, microbiologist, ARS Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research
Unit, Ithaca, N.Y., for performing research on ruminal fermentation that
has increased the productivity, feed efficiency and food safety of the American
cattle industry and decreased the impact of manure on the environment.
I. O'Rourke, microbiologist, ARS
Diseases Research Unit, Pullman, Wash., for scientific excellence leading
to implemented measures for controlling transmissible spongiform
encephalopathies within North America.
Seven ARS Area Early Career Scientists for
2005 were also honored, including
Waters, veterinary medical officer, ARS
Diseases of Livestock Research Unit, Ames, Iowa, for outstanding
contributions in the diagnosis and control of tuberculosis in livestock and
ARS Scientists Inducted into Hall of
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns
announced Dec. 7, 2005 that four ARS scientists have been chosen for the
ARS Science Hall of Fame,
which recognizes agency researchers for outstanding career achievements in
agricultural science. Inductees are nominated by their peers and must be
retired or eligible for retirement.
Among the new inductees are two
whose research is closely related to animal health:
- Charles W.
Beard, a retired veterinary medical officer who joined ARS in 1965 at the
Poultry Laboratory in Athens, Ga. During his 28-year career at ARS, Beard
developed the test for the detection of avian influenza antibodies in serum and
egg yolk. He has conducted experimental studies and published papers on a wide
variety of poultry disease subjects including serology, vaccines, the origins
of poultry diseases and disease containment.
- Nelson A.
Cox, a microbiologist in the
Microbiological Safety Research Unit in Athens, Ga. Research by Cox, one of
the world's most influential poultry microbiologists, has led to huge
reductions in Salmonella contamination (from 75 percent of broiler
chickens in 1990 to 11 percent in 2005) and massive savings to the poultry
industry. Cox has worked for ARS since 1971.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2005 Scientist of the Year and Technology
Transfer Awards and the newest Hall of Fame inductees!
Several agencies responsible for public
health oversight in Canada recently adopted an ARS technique to
extract and assay
noroviruses in oysters.
DNA tests associated with important cattle
traits and other marker-assisted
selection processes being studied by ARS researchers in Clay Center, Neb.,
could help breeders select livestock with better characteristics.
Seeding pastures to grow certain
grasses can provide grazing animals with ample nutrition, especially during
spring and autumn, according to ARS scientists in Miles City, Mont.
ARS has filed a patent on a technique for
injecting Poly-X yeast sugar into cows' udders to mobilize an immune system
response against mastitis.
Barber pole worm is
becoming resistant to chemicals used to control it in sheep and goats, but a
test developed by a South African researcher to help slow the parasite's spread
is 92 percent accurate at predicting its presence, according to an ARS
researcher in Booneville, Ark.
At the National Animal Disease Center in
Ames, Iowa, researchers discovered that dangerous
develop in protozoa inside animals' digestive tracts.
A mathematical model developed by ARS
scientists in Riverside, Calif., revealed that helpful
play an important role in determining how quickly a common veterinary
new database from
ARS scientists in Fort Collins, Colo., helps predict forage growth, allowing
ranchers to make more-informed management decisions.
ARS scientists in Ames, Iowa, and their
USDA colleagues developed a DNA fingerprinting technique to trace the sources
ARS researchers in Leetown, W.Va., are
identifying and characterizing
genes that may
provide larger rainbow trout.
An ARS plant geneticist in Logan, Utah,
and collaborators with Utah State University are studying
kochia plants, a winter-hardy forage for animals in western rangelands.
ARS researchers in Ames, Iowa, are taking
a new focus in efforts to eradicate the bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), including the
incorporation of technology originally developed for cancer studies in humans.
new heat shock
method developed by ARS scientists in Gainesville, Fla., will help
commercial insectaries kill fly pupae, providing a stable supply of food for
parasitic wasps reared to kill filth flies on livestock and poultry farms.
ARS researchers at Mississippi State,
Miss., have developed a more
vaccinator that helps protect laying flocks from serious diseases.
Livestock producers in the southern Great
Plains can use perennial cool-season
grasses to get through seasonal gaps when typical forage grasses don't
grow, according to ARS researchers in El Reno, Okla.
ARS researchers in Athens, Ga., and their
collaborators have discovered that bacteria-produced proteins called
bacteriocins can reduce
Campylobacter pathogens to very low levels in chicken intestines and
could help reduce human exposure to food-borne pathogens.
Scientists with ARS in Lincoln, Neb., and
collaborators at the University of Nebraska found that two new varieties of
big bluestem prairie
grass could boost beef cattle weight by as much as 50 pounds per head.
ARS researchers in Beltsville, Md., found
a dairy cow's rumen can act as a biological filter, breaking down most
A low-cost, simple, portable
device developed by ARS researchers in Athens, Ga., takes samples of
airborne bacteria, viruses and spores to detect pathogenic strains in poultry
houses and layer rooms.
ARS researcher Joyce Evans vaccinates a fish.