Immune therapy has established itself as one of the essential formulas for disease prevention in veterinary medicine. Its base resides in immunology, a science that studies the molecular and cellular processes involved in the defense of the biological integrity of the organism.
The immune response can be:
- Natural or innate: a first non-specific immunological barrier.
- Acquired or induced: an already specific barrier against a certain agent or substance. It is mediated by memory cells known as lymphocytes.
The immune response has two components, one humoral and one cellular. The cellular component is the one that is constituted, among other things, by B and T lymphocytes.
In addition to the aforementioned immune responses, there are others considered pathological, such as hypersensitivity, autoimmune diseases or leukemias.
Immune therapy in animals
Immune therapy gives rise to what is known as artificial or acquired immunity, considered as an essential tool in the fight against animal diseases.
What types of immune therapy exist?
Passive immune therapy
In it, the subject is directly administered specific antibodies against a specific pathogen. These antibodies produce a rapid and short-lived immune response, which does not activate memory cells.. It is achieved through the administration of a serum or antidote.
These sera are characterized by containing antibodies that produce immediate immune effects. Therefore, they are effective in treating severe acute infections, such as tetanus. They are applied once the infection has occurred; that is, they are curative, not preventive. Its effect is not long lasting and disappears as soon as the antibodies have been consumed. It is also not very intense, so it must be administered several times to fight the infection. They are used for circulating toxins or poisons, mainly.
Active immune therapy
In it the antigens are applied directly to the subject, through a vaccine. The generated immunity is effective after several days, because it creates immunological memory.
Vaccines are made from inactivated or attenuated pathogenic microorganisms.. Thus, when administered to an animal, they do not cause infection, but a primary immunity that creates antibodies for the future.
Vaccines are used as a preventive, not curative measure.
Immune therapy in animals: vaccination programs
The goal of vaccination is to develop active acquired immunity in the host, similar to what would appear with the infection. There is no single vaccination strategy and, therefore, vaccination programs will depend on many very varied factors.
The acronym DIVA refers to the ‘immunological differentiation of vaccinated animals’. It is one of the most important challenges of immune therapy.
Another major problem is that certain vaccines make vaccinated animals into inaccessible carriers of the pathogen, which can disperse it through the territory.
This strategy constitutes one of the most immediate bets of animal health research, as with the crisis a few years ago caused by bird flu. During this crisis, animals began to be vaccinated with a special marked vaccine, which allowed differentiation.
Possible disadvantages of marked vaccination are:
- That at least three doses are needed to achieve the desired immunity. That is, they are more expensive and the process lasts longer..
- The results have not been satisfactory in all species.
- The DIVA strategy requires a very complex accurate diagnosis.
- Despite the efforts, there may also be restrictions on the movement of animals.
Future challenges of immune therapy in animals
The future challenges of animal immune therapy refer to certain aspects of genetic engineering that have yet to be improved. This is the case of the search for artificially obtained vaccine antigens. Or the use of only part of the pathogen, and not the whole microorganism, to avoid unwanted virulence. That is, much research is still necessary.
One of the most important processes in disease prevention is vaccination. In this article we tell you when to vaccinate your dog and why. Read more “