INNOVATION beyond expectation was the ambitious promise made by Merial Animal Health ahead of its inaugural veterinary seminar hosted on the shores of Lake Geneva in Montreux, Switzerland, and it didn’t disappoint.
From the beginning it was clear that the emphasis was on ensuring all expectations were exceeded and not just in the workshop sessions. The travel and accommodation arrangements were seamless and the dining wonderfully Swiss.
There was also an opportunity for vets to enjoy some social events and these ranged from wine tasting, chocolate making and castle touring to literally throwing oneself down the Alps if it all got a bit too much – in the form of tobogganing.
Underpinning everything, however, was a well-considered seminar agenda that was clearly developed to help enhance veterinary business through a focus on client communication and marketing cleverly combined with relevant scientific updates.
This article focuses on the clinical and technical aspects that were covered by looking at the advances in the treatment and prevention of a variety of important and emerging veterinary diseases.
Update on cat flu
Martha Cannon, an RCVS specialist in feline medicine at the Oxford Cat Clinic, started the day with a fascinating update on feline upper respiratory tract infections. She focused on both FCV (feline calicivirus) and FHV (feline herpesvirus) as the main causative agents of “cat flu”, representing 80% of cases seen.
She also shared the sobering fact that flu virus carrier status in healthy cats appears to be no less common now than before the introduction of vaccines. After a run through the virus characteristics and common clinical signs, Martha moved on to the chronic sequelae and cited feline chronic gingivostomatitis syndrome as a possible long-term consequence of FCV infection.
Interestingly, it has been isolated from approximately 70% of affected cats, but doesn’t appear to transfer between affected and healthy cats and isn’t consistently linked to a particular viral strain.
Various theories are purported as to the risk factors and pathogenesis, but many questions still remain unanswered.
Cutaneous infection was also discussed, with FHV implicated as a rare cause of erosive/ulcerative facial lesions in the presence or absence of clinical cat flu signs.
Virulent systemic FCV rounded off the list of potential complications. This is a rare but potentially devastating development of FCV infection, with a 60% mortality rate. It is also highly contagious and to date all reported outbreaks have involved different strains of FCV.
Martha finished this fascinating exploration of the chronic viral effects of both FCV and FHV by looking at and critiquing both the treatment and vaccination options currently available.
Advances in technology
Jules Minke, global head of research projects at Merial followed on from Martha to illustrate some of the more recent advances in vaccine technology. Starting with a historical perspective on the evolution of vaccine technology and its various adaptations in response to market needs, the audience were taken on a journey through the different types of vaccine.
From attenuated to killed and from recombinant to DNA vaccines, this was not a presentation for the uninitiated. Jules discussed the pros and cons of each type of vaccine, but spent the majority of the talk focusing on the new second generation vaccines, specifically vector vaccines and DNA vaccine technology.
After explaining the differences between replicative and non-replicative viral vectors, he revealed the process of manufacture for some of Merial’s canarypox vectored vaccines, which include Purevax FeLV and ProteqFlu.
Processed by the immune system as a live virus, these vector vaccines are capable of inducing a strong immune response, with or without adjuvant. However, the virus vector cannot replicate fully in mammalian cells, so cannot cause disease or spread to other in-contact animals.
The vector used in this technology is also highly flexible and can accommodate a number of antigens from a wide array of disease-causing agents. Jules rounded off his presentation by describing the features and benefits of such technology through various feline and equine examples.
Kevin Whelan, also from Merial, concluded the seminar by taking everyone through a whistle-stop tour of the firm’s vaccine range, specifically focusing on Purevax. He outlined key technical features of the product, including the use of a canarypox vector for the FeLV component along with associated benefits.
Also discussed, and tying in with Martha Cannon’s presentation, were the bivalent FCV strains. These increase the ability of the vaccine to neutralise a wide range of field isolates of FCV, thereby offering broader protection against disease.
He finished this part of the discussion by highlighting the adjuvant-free nature of the vaccine, which reduces the degree of inflammation at the site of injection compared to adjuvanted vaccines. Kevin also emphasised the on-going need for innovation by briefly recapping the advances being made in the use of immunotherapy in the management of neoplasia.
He concluded by drawing attention to the emerging threats of vectorborne diseases and the perpetual demand for innovative vaccination solutions to help meet our continuously evolving needs.