Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. (TSX: BNC), a research-based, technology-driven Canadian biopharmaceutical company, today announced that a survey conducted among a random sample of 771 Canadian beef and dairy farmers in all regions of Canada showed that the majority are willing to implement changes on the farm to prevent contamination by E. coli O157.
Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. has developed and licensed (in Canada) the world’s first vaccine to reduce the shedding by cattle of E. coli O157. Econiche(TM) received full licensing approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in October, 2008 and is available for unrestricted use by Canadian cattle producers and their veterinarians. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cleared the path for a conditional license for the vaccine in February, 2008, and the Company is awaiting issuance of that license.
In the independently conducted survey, just over half of the producers surveyed expressed a willingness to vaccinate, but there was sensitivity to the potential cost of a vaccination program. Those surveyed believe the cost of a national vaccination program, if it were to be implemented, should be shared between government and producers, with 88% of respondents expressing willingness to vaccinate if the vaccine was provided free of charge. Their main reasons for supporting vaccination were: Food safety, the potential impact of recalls, and access to export markets.
"The use of chlorinated water, bacteriophages and probiotics help control the organisms, but vaccination provides the greatest reduction in fecal shedding," said Dr. Roy Lewis, a large animal veterinarian in Westlock, Alberta (in the January, 2010 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine). "With the vaccine, you are hitting the problem at its very source, before the bacteria numbers get too high."
Added Dr. Lewis: "Vaccination, together with all the other preventive steps, will hopefully keep this dreaded disease to a minimum and keep consumer confidence in our beef as high as possible."
Econiche is a Canadian discovery developed by Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. The vaccine has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of E. coli O157 shed into the environment by beef and dairy cattle. This organism does not cause illness in cattle, but cattle are the primary reservoir for it. Most strains of E. coli are harmless but some, like O157:H7, can cause severe illness and even be fatal when ingested by humans from contaminated meat, vegetables or water. Vaccination of cattle with Econiche can help reduce the risk of food and waterborne contamination with E. coli O157.
On-farm interventions to reduce the shedding of E. coli O157 by cattle, such as simple vaccination of cattle with Econiche, have the potential to reduce food and water contamination and the consequences associated with human infection with the deadly bacteria.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) developed a risk assessment method to estimate how much human illness caused by E. coli O157 can be prevented through the use of "pre-harvest interventions" such as vaccination (Streamlined Analysis for Evaluating the Use of Preharvest Interventions Intended to Prevent Escherichia coli O157:H7 Illness in Humans, Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, Volume 6, Number 7, 2009). Researchers created two economic production functions where the input was the number of vaccinated cattle and the output was human illness prevented. Although this was a hypothetical case study, it showed that, "… vaccinating the entire U.S. herd at a cost of between $2.29 and $9.14 per unit (depending on overall effectiveness of the vaccine) would be a cost-effective intervention for preventing E. coli O157:H7 illness in humans."
Human exposure and infection with E. coli O157:H7 can result in serious health consequences, including abdominal pain and severe bloody diarrhea. In severe cases, kidney damage can occur and progress to serious complications and even death. In one of the reported outbreaks, in Nestle Toll-House cookie dough, 76 persons from 31 states in the U.S. have been infected with E. coli O157:H7, with 35 of these hospitalized and 11 with Haemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) (see below).
Econiche is manufactured in the Bioniche production facility in Belleville, Ontario, where a $25-million expansion is taking place, supported by the Ontario and Canadian governments. Vaccine supply will be limited during this manufacturing expansion period.