The humane standards of care of animals are constantly changing, as informed by scientific advances. Animal agriculture, in particular, has been evolving for decades. Livestock housing techniques, like other husbandry practices, have continuously evolved to protect animals from exposure to diseases, pests, environmental extremes, and from each other. Animal scientists and veterinarians continuously research methods, techniques and equipment to maximize animal comfort, while providing necessary protection.
Some recent advances exemplify the importance of continued research in disease protection and husbandry techniques that benefit animals and humans alike.
As reported in the National Hog Farmer, Merck Animal Health has been granted “licensure of its Prescription Product, RNA Particle vaccine platform from the USDA.”
The RP technology platform is used to make vaccines for swine, bovine, equine, avian, companion animal and farmed aquaculture diseases. Pathogens are collected from a farm and specific genes are sequenced and synthetically inserted into the platform creating RNA particles, making safe, potent vaccines able to provide herd-specific protection. This system was instrumental in producing the first conditionally licensed vaccine to help control porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, a deadly virus that has killed more than eight million piglets since suddenly emerging in the United States in 2013. It also was utilized to produce a conditionally licensed vaccine against H5 avian influenza, which was subsequently awarded a USDA Stockpile in October.
Perhaps this platform could be used to develop effective vaccines to protect horses infected with the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus which has increasingly spread throughout equine racing, show, and pleasure barns and facilities, resulting in prolonged quarantines, and unfortunately, illness and death.
Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation recently announced its intention to fund more than $1 million in projects, as reported by Matt Hegarty in the Daily Racing Form:
The 11 new projects include a study of the latency of equine herpesvirus in horse populations. A strain of equine herpesvirus, EHV-1, has wreaked havoc on racing circuits when the highly contagious disease has been detected at racetracks or training facilities, leading to quarantines and shipping restrictions.
Advances have not been limited to disease prevention.
Researchers have announced a probable solution to the culling of male chicks in the egg industry. Because males do not produce eggs, they are culled.
Now, as reported by ABC/Australia, scientists studying poultry diseases at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong “accidentally . . . made a breakthrough with biotechnology” discovering a way to identify male chick embryos before they hatched, making the culling of billions of male baby chicks unnecessary.
The scientists discovered they could inject an embryo with “a green fluorescent protein gene placed on the male chromosome” which could “ensure the males are never born, let alone culled.”
It is important to note that without biomedical research involving animals, these advances, which benefit animals, would not have been possible.