An “extremely exciting” vaccine against strangles could be on the market within two years.

Scientists from the Animal Health Trust (AHT), the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the Karolinska Institute and Intervacc AB, have developed protein-based vaccine Strangvac, to prevent equines contracting the highly contagious disease.

The group trialled the vaccine on 16 horses and its findings were published in scientific journal Vaccine.

Strangvac protected 13 of the equines from strangles. They were exposed to the infection and then monitored twice daily for the onset of clinical signs of disease and temperatures were recorded daily as the primary indicator of infection.

None of the animals developed adverse reactions to the vaccination.

“We are delighted to have shown that our Strangvac vaccine protected over 80% of horses from this dreadful disease,” said Professor Jan-Ingmar Flock, chief executuve of Intervacc AB, the company that produced the vaccine.

“Strangles is a scourge of the equine world and the development of Strangvac has the potential to prevent many thousands of horses from falling ill each year.”

Strangles is caused by a bacteria called streptococcus equi, which causes horses to suffer from large pus-filled abscesses in their throat and neck.

With an estimated 600 outbreaks of strangles each year in the UK alone, the development of the vaccine is hoped to have benefits to the health of horses around the world.

“Strangvac is an extremely exciting vaccine,” added Dr Andrew Waller, head of bacteriology at the AHT.

“The vaccine was designed using information from sequencing the DNA of streptococcus equi and highlights the potential that the genome-era heralds for improving the health of animals and people.

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“Improving the health of horses is a core aim of the AHT and we are proud to have helped make this vaccine a reality towards finally breaking the hold this disease currently has on our horses.”

Professor Flock anticipates that Strangvac will be available for use in 2020.

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