Horses exposed to a lethal dose of the Hendra virus six months after being given the new Equivac HeV vaccine did not develop the disease.
The finding was revealed in the latest data from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
Further work is under way in the expectation that immunity conferred from the vaccine will last even longer.
Commenting on the CSIRO study, the Australian Veterinary Association confirms that horses exposed to lethal doses of the virus were protected for six months after they completed a full course of the vaccine.
Association president Dr Ben Gardiner said the new data would further increase horse-owners’ confidence in Equivac HeV and it supported vets’ efforts to vaccinate horses under their care.
“The outcome of this study is an important step in the ongoing fight against the Hendra virus,” Gardiner said.
“Vets and horse owners alike can now have even greater assurance that the most effective tool against this lethal virus has significant immunity.”
CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory played a critical role in the development of Equivac HeV and continued efforts to minimise the spread of Hendra virus, including the study conducted to confirm six months’ immunity.
“Supporting the equine community has always been our main priority and this recent data is providing further confidence to owners, vets and those that interact with horses,” said CSIRO veterinary pathologist Dr Deborah Middleton.
“While any vaccine may not be a silver bullet, this new information consolidates the position of Equivac HeV as a significant weapon in the arsenal against Hendra.”
Although Equivac HeV represents a significant advancement in the way that veterinarians manage the risk of Hendra, there is work under way to further understand the vaccine’s full potential.
“While we are very pleased with the outcome of this study, we believe that protection will likely persist for even longer, and studies are continuing to confirm this and other key indicators of the vaccine’s performance,” Middleton said.
Since the vaccine’s introduction in November 2012, the Australian Veterinary Association has been working with its members to educate and encourage horse owners to protect their horses, themselves and their community through vaccination against the Hendra virus.
Gardiner said: “These research results further support our recommendation that all horses in Australia should be vaccinated to reduce fatal outcomes that result from Hendra virus infection.”