Our area has a local Trail Rider’s Association called Gold Country Trails Council. I am not a very visible member and I don’t participate in much (my ba – no time), but I do pay my dues and get involved with their email information system – which I love!
If you don’t have a trails association in your area, you might consider forming one just for the email perks! We are constantly keeping each other aware of whatever is happening, what needs to be done, what is selling, who is moving, medical news, virus outbreaks, bear sightings, dental specials… and it is great!
As an example of this great system, this week we all learned about this incredibly tenacious vet from Bend, Oregon, who took it upon himself to create a vaccine for Pigeon Fever. (I’ve written about Pigeon Fever previously here… the internal type is often fatal.)
Wow! Good going, Doc!
The original article is linked here.
PIGEON FEVER VACCINE!
Bend-based veterinarian develops vaccine for Pigeon Fever
In the late summer and early fall of 2011, Dr. Patrick Young found himself treating horses on a daily basis for pigeon fever, a painful and debilitating disease.
“I just felt sorry for the horses and their owners,” says Young, an equine lameness and sports medicine veterinarian at The Athletic Horse in Bend.
So he did what anyone who studied both animal and biomedical sciences would do, of course: He developed a vaccine.
What is pigeon fever?
Pigeon fever (also called pigeon breast, dryland distemper, and Colorado strangles) is a bacterial infection characterized by deep intramuscular abscesses, says Dr. Paul Edmonds of Cinder Rock Veterinary Clinic in Redmond.
It’s highly contagious and very painful but rarely fatal.
The abscess formations most commonly appear externally in the pectoral area by the breast muscles, along the midline or underside of the belly, or in the armpit or groin.
The abscesses cause a puffed-out appearance resembling a pigeon’s breast, which is how the disease gets its name.
Abscesses may appear internally in the horse’s lungs, liver, kidneys or other organs, and the lymph nodes and legs can also be affected.
Other symptoms include lethargy, stiffness and lameness from the pain and swelling, lack of appetite or fever, Edmonds says.
Pigeon fever occurs most commonly during dry months, when the bacteria thrive and flies are more prevalent.
The bacteria most likely enter a horse’s body through an open wound or fly bite or through mucous membranes.
The state doesn’t track infectious diseases in horses or other animals, but Edmonds says cases of pigeon fever do occur in Oregon annually.
“Incidence of disease fluctuates from year to year, possibly due to herd immunity and environmental factors such as temperature and rainfall,” he says.
Treatment typically involves lancing and draining the abscesses and occasionally a course of antibiotics.
Dr. Patrick Young hopes the vaccine will be available in 18 to 24 months.
The making of a vaccine
Because treatment can be such a long process – horses can take months to recover – and no vaccine had yet been developed, Young was motivated.
“I felt like I needed a vaccine for pigeon fever disease so that I could help protect my clients and patients,” he says.
A former Oklahoma resident, Young was in Central Oregon competing in the Pacific Crest triathlon when heard about the Bend Venture Conference.
After attending the event in October, he was inspired to pursue a vaccine and launch his biotechnology startup, Bird Dog Bioventures.
Young and his family moved to Central Oregon in June, and he relocated his veterinary practice to Bend.
To develop the vaccine, Young isolated the bacteria that causes pigeon fever from an equine patient in Oklahoma, cultured it and outsourced the vaccine development to Colorado Serum Company.
They purified, sterilized and inactivated the bacteria and added it to adjuvants, which stimulate the immune system.
After testing the vaccine’s safety, he conducted small clinical trials on horses in Oklahoma.
Three titers (tests that indicate an animal’s protection against a disease by measuring the levels of antibodies present in its blood) revealed the horses had developed a strong immune response.
“This technology’s not new,” Young says. “It’s just that nobody really jumped on board and said, ‘Why don’t we make a vaccine for this?”
Large biotechnology companies have little interest in pursuing vaccines that have only regional incidence, he says, preferring to invest in vaccines that can generate millions of dollars annually.
“They saw this as a risk and didn’t invest their resources,” he says, “so I did.”
Young is working towards a conditional license with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in conjunction with Colorado Serum and expects the vaccine will be available in about 18 to 24 months.
The USDA regulations prohibit him from using his existing vaccine across state lines.
If finds a horse with the disease here in Oregon, however, he could develop a local vaccine that would be available sooner.
In the meantime, Young is already working on several other projects, including a vaccine that would protect dogs against salmon poisoning, a potentially fatal condition that can affect dogs that eat raw fish in Northwest.
“My goal is not to get filthy rich doing this,” he says. “I just want to help do my part to help protect animals and their owners and give back the best I can.”
Preventing pigeon fever
Since flies are likely a primary means of transmitting pigeon fever, fly control is one of the most effective ways for preventing it.
Fly spray, sheets or repellents, as well as thorough manure cleanup, can limit the risk of disease.
Fly control is especially important if you have an infected horse on your property.
Get rid of any contaminated bedding or material used in treatment, clean stalls occupied by an infected horse and disinfect any equipment used on the horse.
Wear gloves when handling an infected horse, and change your clothes before handling a healthy horse. The bacteria can be carried on equipment, boots, tools or human hands.
Don’t use the same rakes, pitchforks or equipment to remove manure from other stalls if they were used in the stall of an infected horse.
Remove the top layer of soil in the area where the wound was drained, replacing it with clean soil or bedding.
Disinfectants such as bleach don’t work well on organic debris like dirt or manure, so don’t pour them on the ground.
The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association recommends examining your horse’s undersides daily for swelling.
Cattle, sheep and goats can also be infected with the bacteria.
–Sources: Dr. Paul Edmonds; Oregon Veterinary Medical Association