Mike McMorris and Chloe Neudorf
The livestock sector in Ontario is a key driver of Ontario’s economy, generating about $4 billion in
value annually (Statistical Summary of Ontario Agriculture, 2016). The health of the herd and flock
plays a huge role in the profitability of production but also in the environmental footprint and in food
safety. Good health starts with biosecurity; however, disease will always be an issue for livestock
producers. Treatment can be effective, although, there is rising concern regarding the use of
antimicrobial products and the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) (Refer to LRIC’s Antimicrobial
Use and Resistance White Paper for more information on this subject). Vaccines present less of a
risk to the future of animal health than antibiotics and treatment medicine, with no AMR threat.
Further, there is a growing understanding of the need to view livestock health as highly intertwined
with health of humans and the environment. This concept is called One Health (Refer to LRIC’s One
Health White Paper for more information on this subject).
New technologies (e.g. mRNA, artificial intelligence) will have dramatic impact on the availability and
effectiveness of vaccines available to producers. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been used to
accelerate drug discovery and identification of molecular determinants of microbes needed for
vaccine development. In addition, new genomics, proteomics and transcriptomics techniques have
allowed identification of potential proteins that can be utilised for development of vaccines (Sidik et
al., 2016). Finally, CRISPR/Cas9 technology is a powerful system in regards to understanding
molecular and cellular biology of disease-causing microbes and how hosts respond to microbes.
Having a comprehensive understanding of host-microbe interactions will pave the way for
development of novel and more efficacious vaccines that are cost-effective and easy to deploy. This
can mean great things for the future of livestock vaccines (Sidik et al., 2016). The current COVID-19
pandemic has taught us many lessons, including the fact that the development, mass production and
approval process of vaccines could be shortened from several years (or decades) to 8-9 months.
This will have a significant and long-lasting impact on how livestock vaccines are produced and
deployed in the future. It is now in the realm of possibility that a vaccine be developed and tested
against an emerging pathogen of livestock and be deployed in the face of a global outbreak.