When is an Autogenous Vaccine Right for Your Herd?

( Jennifer Shike )

By Evan Koep, DVM, Pipestone Veterinary Services

Minimum ventilation inside your barn often leads to a battle of keeping fresh, good air quality inside the barn. This causes challenges of keeping up on treating infections, especially bacterial diseases like Streptococcus suis (Strep) and Haemophilus parasuis (HPS) in nursery pigs. 

One tool your veterinarian may employ for a constant disease issue when other strategies have failed is an autogenous vaccine.

What is an autogenous vaccine?
An autogenous vaccine is a killed vaccine made by a veterinarian custom for a specific producer or group of animals. 

Autogenous vaccines were previously made only in veterinary clinics; however, many individuals question the sterility of these processes due to limited testing procedures. After all, these are veterinary clinics and not vaccine laboratories. With many different samples, people, etc., entering and exiting a veterinary clinic on a regular basis, there was always a risk of contamination in the vaccine with an unintended pathogen. Because of the risks and issues, veterinarians were traditionally hesitant to recommend an autogenous vaccine. However, they are used more and more frequently today. 

What’s changed?
• Trusted manufacturers have bought autogenous vaccine companies and have implemented the same rigorous protocols used in commercial production platforms

• New disease challenges

• Pressure to reduce antibiotic usage

• More research to prove their benefit

What is the process to get an autogenous vaccine?
1. A disease is identified, or other interventions have been ineffective.
2. A veterinarian collects samples and submits to a diagnostic laboratory.
3. The diagnostic lab determines the cause and isolates the pathogen.
4. The isolates are forwarded to an autogenous vaccine company.
5. The autogenous company grows the bacteria or virus in the lab.
6. A vaccine is developed, and quality control testing is performed.
7. The vaccine is shipped to the customer.

It's important to note that an autogenous vaccine cannot be used as an immediate intervention for a disease problem, as the entire process can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks.

When should you consider an autogenous vaccine?
Autogenous vaccines are a useful tool because they can be a solution when other solutions have failed or when a commercial vaccine for that disease does not exist. 

Because an autogenous vaccine is made specifically for the farm, it can include a different strain or serotype that is not contained in the commercial vaccine. 

What are the challenges?
I cannot stress enough that autogenous vaccinations should only be used with proper diagnostics. 

•    The cause of the disease needs to be identified and verified, as well as proof that the isolated pathogen is actually causing the disease. For example, Strep suis has more than 35 different types of pathogens. However, multiple types present in the pig and environment and are not causing disease. If proper diagnostics are not performed, the vaccine will not protect against the strain actually causing the disease. 

•    The vaccination takes time to make the vaccine (6-12 weeks).

•    There are possible minimum dosage order requirements and the administrator will need to complete two doses.

•    There is no guarantee that the vaccine will work. 

Due to these challenges, other treatment and prevention avenues should be evaluated before creating an autogenous vaccine.

An autogenous vaccine is not a silver bullet, but it’s another tool in the toolbox. If you are struggling with recurrent disease issues and other solutions are failing, talk to your veterinarian to see if an autogenous vaccine might be the right fit for your farm.

More from Farm Journal's PORK:

Autogenous Streptococcus Suis Vaccine Protects Piglets

Is Strep Suis Making a Comeback?

Craft A Custom Swine Vaccine in 8 Steps

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