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Newly-developed vaccine by LSU researcher could save U.S. cattle industry

3 months 15 hours 40 minutes ago Wednesday, March 20 2024 Mar 20, 2024 March 20, 2024 7:00 PM March 20, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE — The cattle industry is losing $1 billion each year with no end in sight. One researcher believes his team can help save it.

Shafiqul Chowdhury, a professor of molecular and researcher at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, has developed a new vaccine that could prevent the spread of bovine respiratory disease. Cattle already receive a vaccine, but eight million calves still die each year, hindering the beef and milk supply. The current vaccine does not prevent the spread of bovine respiratory disease and does not contain a DIVA marker—what distinguishes infected from vaccinated animals. 

"You cannot distinguish between the vaccine and the actual virus that causes disease," Chowdhury explained. "If an animal is vaccinated, it makes antibody and the virus that causes disease, that also makes (an) antibody."

Chowdhury has spent more than 15 years developing the research for the new vaccine, and he said it all started with understanding which viral genes make the proteins that cause the disease. The professor and his team of researchers took the proteins from viruses and genetically modified them to provide protective proteins of bovine respiratory viruses and also to prevent the spread of the disease.

The researcher explained how when a vaccinated cow is pregnant, the virus can be reactivated and travel through the blood, to the uterus and infect the fetus, killing it. This, in turn, affects the milk and beef supply by killing off calves.

"We eat beef right?" Chowdhury questioned. "And also we drink milk, and if the cattle is infected and they're dying, especially say feedlots, what they do (is) they get five-or-six-months old calves, and then they fatten them up. Then after a year or one-and-a-half years, they sell them so we can consume. So, if you have a mortality, that productivity is going to be infected, which economically is a loss."

The vaccine's findings and breakthrough research doesn't just impact cattle within the country, but it has the potential to impact the whole world and preserve the food supply amid vast environmental changes.

"Your farmer, who is raising cattle and making some living out of that and selling your beef and meat, that will be a factor that will affect the economy," Chowdhury said. "Not only that, if this vaccine is commercialized for our purpose, it could not only save Louisiana cattle, it will save the entire U.S., and if it is commercialized by other international companies, then it could be attractive to them also for saving their cattle."

The impact could be worldwide, but that will have to wait until the vaccine is approved. Currently, Chowdhury's findings and product await patent approval to determine if the vaccine will not cause more deaths of calves.

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