Development of an oral vaccine for piglets: A platform technology - Ontario Pork - Completed Research
Thursday, May 23, 2024

Completed Research

Ontario Pork has a call for research proposals once a year. These projects were approved for funding by the board on recommendation of the research committee. If you have questions or need further information about the research posted here please contact Jessica Fox at [email protected]

Completed Research

Development of an oral vaccine for piglets: A platform technology

Project:11-228 - Researcher: Heather Wilson

Researcher: Heather Wilson, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), University of Saskatchewan.

Project start: 2012  Project Completion: 2014


Traditional pig vaccines must be injected into the pig in order to stimulate the animal’s immune system to produce a protective response against pathogens such as viruses and bacteria.  However these systemic vaccines do not induce an immune response on the mucosal surfaces.  As pigs can be exposed to a large number of pathogens through the digestive tract, researchers from the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), at the University of Saskatchewan, wanted to design a vaccine that would allow the pig’s immune system to immediately recognize and attack pathogens that try to enter through the mucosal surfaces of the digestive tract.  This was a challenging goal as the immune system would need to recognize and differentiate between all of the harmless and potentially harmful elements the pig ingests. 

Rather than testing this concept for a new oral vaccine by challenging pigs with a disease, the researchers created and administered an oral vaccination against egg protein for the preliminary testing.  Shortly after birth, the vaccine was squirted into the pig’s mouth.  At this age the digestive surfaces of the piglet are still permeable so that antibodies passed on from the sow’s milk can be absorbed. This allowed the vaccine to be captured by the immune cells that are responsible for mucosal surface protection. The trial demonstrated that when the egg protein vaccine was given alone, the pigs showed tolerance to the protein after receiving a booster vaccine several weeks later. When the vaccine was given with an adjuvant, the pigs showed a protective immune response when they received a booster of the vaccine. The most significant protective response provided was seen in body systems like the bloodstream, similar to traditional vaccines, but some protective responses were also seen at digestive surfaces. With these positive results, researchers then focused on trying this new type of oral vaccine against routine pig diseases.  They also began investigating how to further improve responses at digestive surfaces.  If successful, this type of vaccine could be useful for protecting young pigs from infection while reducing the number of pigs carrying and shedding pathogens in a herd.

Additional Resources

Previous Article A Comparison of the Multi-class, Multi-residue Drug Analysis (MRD) and the Charm Kidney Inhibition Swab (KIS) Test Supporting Detection and Identification of Antimicrobial Drugs.
Next Article Enhancement of Litter Size in Commercial Swine using an Immune Stimulant