Development of novel vaccine for newborns against Lawsonia intracellularis (Ileitis)

Fluorescent confocal microscopy of McCoy cells sorted for CFSE positive signal (green indicating Lawsonia intracellularis). McCoy cells are stained with PKH26 (red) and DAPI (blue) to indicate cellular proliferation and nuclear region, respectively. Image by M. Obradovic and H.L. Wilson; Obradovic, et. al. (2016), J Microbiol Methods 126: 60-66.

Project Team: Heather L. Wilson, Kezia Fourie, Haoming Liu, Zahed Khatooni, Siew Hon Ng

Ileitis, caused by the bacteria Lawsonia intracellularis, is a common gastrointestinal disease in pigs that can cause death (acute form of the disease), but more commonly increases the time it takes for pigs to reach market weight (chronic form of the disease). Ileitis is primarily transmitted through fecal shedding and has a high transmission rate—even sub-clinically infected pigs can shed the organism for several weeks, leading to new infections. Our team is developing multi-subunit vaccine candidates that will provide protection and allow us to differentiate between infected and vaccinated animals (DIVA vaccine). Subunit vaccines are very safe because they cannot revert to disease.

We will validate that ileitis subunit vaccine candidates are effective in the presence of maternal antibodies, so it can be given to very young piglets prior to weaning. Our team will also determine if the vaccine is protective against both chronic and acute forms of the disease and whether it prevents transmission via bacteria shedding. Importantly, a protective vaccine will reduce the need for antibiotics which will, in turn, greatly benefit producers around the globe.

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