Grants to Aid Cattle, Swine Vaccine Research

Two new grants at Kansas State University will be utilized to help protect global food supplies through the development of vaccines to protect swine and cattle from infectious diseases.

Combined, the grants exceed $1.2 million and are funded for a three-year period by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, or AFRI. They will be used to conduct two research projects in K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

The first project is led by Waithaka Mwangi, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, whose research team has developed a contemporary multi-component live vaccine capable of inducing broad protection against multiple Bovine Parainfluenza 3 Virus, or BPI3V, and Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus, or BVDV, strains following mucosal immunization.

According to Mwangi, the current BPI3Va vaccine is effective against some, but not all, BPI3V strains; similarly, BVDV vaccines aren’t entirely effective due in part to immunosuppressive traits and failure of the vaccine virus to confer broad protection.

“These pathogens play significant roles in causing Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex, which leads to severe pneumonia and death of calves,” Mwangi said. “There is a need to develop better vaccines capable of conferring broad protection against diverse BPI3V and BVDV strains to improve and sustain cattle productivity.”

Juergen Richt, regents distinguished professor and university distinguished professor in diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, is leading the second project, which focuses on the African swine fever virus, or ASFV, a lethal disease in both wild and domestic pigs.

According to Richt, all attempts to develop safe vaccines capable of protecting against the infection and the disease have been largely unsuccessful.

“African swine fever virus is characterized by a wide variety of severe clinical signs in affected animals,” Richt said. “In this project, we will test our hypothesis that it is possible to protect against ASFV infection and disease with rationally designed and engineered virus-vectored subunit vaccine candidates. Our vaccine approaches are based on a better understanding of the pig’s immune response to ASFV infection, and the virus-vectored vaccine candidates are DIVA, or differentiate infected from vaccinated animals, compatible.”

David Rosowsky, vice president for research at K-State, said the development of these vaccines is of global significance.

“K-State researchers are committed to domestic and international collaborations to find solutions to these aggressive diseases, and the university continues to be an international leader in animal health and biosecurity,” Rosowsky said.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative was established by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill and re-authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. AFRI programs help develop new technologies and a workforce that will advance national security, energy self-sufficiency and the health of Americans.