Influenza is a serious disease and human beings aren't the only ones who suffer – dogs are susceptible to their own strains of flu. Scientists at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry have developed the two new vaccines for canine influenza. According to the researchers, the vaccines will not only make man's best friend more comfortable, but potentially protect humans from cross-species infections.
The team led by associate professor in the department of Microbiology and Immunology Luis Martinez-Sobrido created two vaccines to protect against H3N8 canine influenza virus, which is currently circulating in dogs in the United States. The vaccines are live-attenuated, meaning that unlike other vaccines that use killed or inactive viruses, the H3N8 vaccine was made using genetically modified viruses that have been attenuated or "dampened down," so they spark an immune response in dogs without producing symptoms. One of the advantages of this approach is that by using live viruses, the protection is broader and more long term.
Using a techniques called reserve genetics, the team removed an NS1 protein from the virus, then used it to create the vaccine. Previous studies have shown that the removal of this protein prevents the vaccine from causing illness. The team also found that by introducing the virus into the noses of dogs it produced an immune response that stopped the spread of the virus before it could reach the lungs, where it could cause unwanted inflammation.
The next step is clinical trials of the vaccine in dogs. According to the scientists, the new vaccine could not only help doggy health, but human health as well, by preventing canine transmission of new flu strains to people. Such an event has not happened yet, but it is possible.