A team at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine conducted several studies to determine if vaccines can cause changes in the immune system of dogs that might lead to life-threatening immune-mediated diseases. They discovered that the blood of all the vaccinated dogs contained significantly elevated concentrations of antibodies directed against proteins that are present in commercial vaccines as contaminants of the production process. None of the unvaccinated control dogs had a similar increase in these antibodies. These proteins are typically of bovine origin since foetal calf serum is used to grow the viruses for vaccine production. The close similarity in structure of the bovine proteins to dog proteins results in a situation whereby the antibodies produced by the vaccinated dogs may cross-react with dog tissue proteins in a process similar to autoimmunity. Contaminant calf collagen was stimulating antibody production that cross-reacted with the dog's own collagen which would explain so many degenerative diseases such as arthritis and heart valve disease to name but two, where the body's own collagen fails. Roger wonders how significant this might be in cruciate ligament injuries and degeneration? The researchers concluded that further research should be carried out. Although collagen is arguably the most important protein in the body on the wrong end of an auto-immune response due to its ubiquitous distribution throughout all connective tissues, Purdue found other auto-immune issues in vaccinated dogs that weren’t present in unvaccinated ones. The full list included fibronectin, laminin, DNA, albumin, cytochrome C, cardiolipin as well as the collagen.
Considering the potential severity of these auto-immune conditions, the practice of annual vaccination in the UK is still occurring even though there is no scientific basis for this interval and continued vaccination increases the likelihood of these adverse auto-immune effects developing. Annual vaccination also flies in the face of current WSAVA recommendations that vaccinations should not be performed more frequently than every 3 years in adult dogs for core vaccinations as set out by Prof Day in his practical guidelines.
Given that there is 98% cover when a puppy/kitten vaccine is given at 16 weeks old, a single booster 6 months or a year later with a modified live virus (MLV) vaccine is all that should be required for life-long protection. Of course, if a dog/cat lives in an area where they are more frequently exposed to a natural challenge, then the immune system is already being regularly reminded, but more on this in the discussion on titres.
If another MLV vaccine were to be given a year later, the antibodies from the first vaccine neutralise the antigens of the second vaccine and there is little or no effect. The titre is not "boosted", nor are more memory cells induced. Not only are annual boosters unnecessary, but they subject the pet to increased potential risks.
There has never been a study to show that annual vaccines are needed for any of the core vaccines in cats or dogs. However, there are plenty of studies to show that the duration of immunity is much longer than we are being told. Supporting this point is the fact that more than half the dogs, and even more of the cats in the UK are greater than 4 years behind with their boosters (source: Intervet mailing). Yet where are the large-scale outbreaks? They just don’t happen as the scaremongering predicts. This is likely to be because immunity is frequently established in the “unvaccinated” and lifelong.
Cats can get vaccine-induced cancer that has been acknowledged by veterinary bodies around the world. In America, in an attempt to mitigate the problem, they vaccinate cats in the tail or leg so they can be more easily amputated if a cancer appears. Vaccine-induced injection site cancer can happen in other species too.
Leptospira are spirochete bacteria usually found associated with wet conditions although they only reproduce once they have infected and are in situ in an animal or human. The different types are called serovars which seem to be preferentially found in certain animals. For example, L interrogans Hardjo is usually found in cattle where it can cause abortion. Infection can be passed from animals to people, usually via contact with urine. People who take part in recreational water sports on rivers such as kayaking, open water swimming etc are most at risk as rats can be a reservoir of infection and higher water levels can wash out riverbank burrows. There are only 40 cases in people each year on average.
Starting in 2002, the UK used to just have the L2 vaccines that act against L interrogans Canicola and L interrogans Icterohaemorrhagiae. The first L4 vaccine from MSD started in 2012 which added in L. interrogans Australis and L. kirschneri Grippotyphosa,
I am writing a special section on Lepto vaccination because I more frequently come across owners who have thought about reducing vaccination, but with limited access to information and have decided that of all the diseases their dog is likely to encounter, Leptospirosis is the one. Consequently. they think they should therefore preferentially keep the Lepto vaccine going rather than any others. The following information might cause you to rethink.
- Kansas University reports that the Leptospirosis vaccine is THE major cause of vaccine reactions, so much so that they consider the risks outweigh the benefits. It is no longer considered a core vaccine and they even recommend it should not be given to puppies. The VMD has stated that they do not consider that adverse reactions to the Lepto vaccines are above acceptable, standard limits for all vaccines. This conclusion is likely based on very incomplete data given that it is widely recognised that only 1-10% of true adverse reactions are reported. It may quite possibly be lower in animals given that vets will not want to admit that a voluntary injection has caused harm, they don’t want to accept any liability and vaccines are a major staple income for the vast majority of practices in the UK. Regardless of the degree of under-reporting to the VMD, the figures are 0.015% of L2 vaccinations report an adverse event, whilst for L4 it is 0.069%. So, vets are preferentially and deliberately pushing the L4 vaccines despite over a 4-fold increase in adverse reactions (according to official statistics) for a disease that typically affects well under 100 dog cases countrywide per year on average.
- Another study found the vaccine highly immuno-suppressive and recommended that the vaccine should not be given in conjunction with other vaccines. It is currently given alongside any other vaccines being administered mixed in the same syringe in the UK.
- The Leptospirosis vaccine does not protect the dog from being infected with the disease; it just minimises the clinical symptoms. Hence there seems to be a real potential risk for vaccinated asymptomatic dogs to shed Lepto spirochetes to other dogs and humans. Although one manufacturer claims to offer a vaccine that prevents this, the clinical study was based on a sample of only 6 dogs which isn’t statistically significant and so cannot be considered scientifically credible.
- The duration of measurable immunity induced by the Leptospirosis vaccine can be as little as a few months yet the advised interval for boosters is 1 year, which it seems has been an entirely arbitrary recommendation on all accounts. By inference it may well be that even vaccinated dogs are not protected as their owners expect. A commercial titre test is not available to check Lepto immune status.
- There is little protection between serovars (types). Use of the vaccine in the USA has led to a shift in the serovar population such that the serovars now infecting dogs are not the ones used in the vaccines. I think it is logical to assume this is also possible in the UK.
- The vaccine efficacy seems between only 50 -70%, depending on the author.
- Of the 8 species that can cause severe disease in humans: L. alexanderi, L. borgpetersenii, L. mayottensis, L. noguchii, L. santarosai, and L. weilii, only L. interrogans and L. kirschneri serovars are included in L4 vaccine, although of course nobody wants a mild infection either!
If we look at the numbers more closely, there is a rough estimate of 9m dogs in the UK of which approximately 2/3 are vaccinated – so roughly 6m giving 4140 adverse reactions to L4 if all receive it, compared with 900 if all received L2. If we assume that there are a high 100 cases of Lepto disease per year from only unvaccinated dogs this works out at 100 cases in 3m = 1 case per 30,000 dogs. Using these figures if the 6m vaccinated dogs were not vaccinated then only 200 would contract Leptospirosis with an 80% survival rate with treatment. It is hard to justify giving L2 on a risk benefit analysis let alone L4.
Vaccination should always be considered on an individual basis taking into account all the risk factors. You could argue that only those dogs who regularly exercise in and near water, or where they are more likely to be in closer proximity to rats need consider having a Lepto vaccination, but even that is debatable. In reality both vaccinated and unvaccinated dogs have contracted Lepto as there are other serovars around not included in the vaccines and there is little to no crossover protection conferred by vaccination.
The L4 vaccine is being pushed very hard in the UK amid scare stories about leptospirosis diagnosis and disease being rife. Always ask which serovar was isolated if your vet tells you this. I wonder how many will be able to say? The truth about the L4 vaccine is as follows ...
- The L4 vaccine covers the 2 serovars in the old vaccines as well as 2 new serovars. There are quite a few serotypes within each serovar and there is cross-protection between serotypes within each serovar but, as stated above, not between the different serovars.
- L. kirschneri Grippotyphosa and L interrogans icterohaemorrhagiae are rarely found in the UK but are more widespread in Europe, which makes L4 more relevant for dogs that travel to Europe regularly. Lepto spirochetes don’t survive long once the urine is diluted or if it dries out, so realistically direct urine contact with a mucosa is necessary for infection.
- L. interrogans Australis has been so far diagnosed in <1% of cases referred to the Animal Health Trust labs. Of course, not all cases get tested but even so it seems that the L4 vaccine gives little additional benefit over the older ones, especially considering the increased risk from having it.
- It would appear that the reason why the L4 vaccine was launched in the UK initially when the European and U.S. markets are more appropriate targets considering the serovars included is that it made sense for the manufacturers to produce enough of the vaccine and market it to the UK knowing that because vaccine uptake in the UK is generally good, we provide a good opportunity to get more data on adverse reactions etc before launching it into a more litigious US market.
Homeopathic nosodes are sometimes wrongly referred to as a homeopathic vaccine. Nosodes are homeopathic preparations of the pathogen but this in itself does not stimulate the immune response in the same way as a traditional vaccination.
Nosodes will cover the individual in the face of an outbreak of disease so that they will asymptomatically seroconvert in response to meeting the disease pathogen. The natural immune response will result in antibodies and memory cell production, but it is as a result of being challenged by the pathogen itself and not as a result of the nosode. People who have given nosodes where a future titre test has shown antibodies present have mis-interpreted the meaning of this and have assumed that the nosode stimulated the immune response because they haven't witnessed the pathogen challenge that occurred during the nosode course because it was asymptomatic.
If an individual receiving a nosode does not encounter the pathogen at the same time, they will not seroconvert and will not have an immune response that conveys future cover. It is entirely possible therefore for an individual that has received homeopathic nosodes but not seroconverted to meet the pathogen in later life and become ill with that disease. It is not a failing of the nosode itself - just a failing of the individual to meet the pathogen whilst they were receiving the nosode. Hopefully, this clears up a common misunderstanding.
When it comes to the efficacy of nosodes, the Cuban study looking at Leptospirosis nosode use in humans proved that they work. If we are prepared to use animal efficacy as an indicator to human efficacy within vivisection models for developing pharma drugs for use in people, then we are obliged to recognise the reverse situation in this case.
Link to paper here
Use of nosodes would have a huge impact on improving animal welfare because they can be used for conditions where there are not currently any vaccines and would be far cheaper too, helping farmers whose margins are squeezed dry by supermarkets.
Titre testing is becoming more popular as more owners realise it is available. However, there are some misunderstandings about what titre tests really mean. In order to understand them, you need to know what the immune system does in response to infection and/or vaccination.
When a pathogen (eg usually bacterial or a virus) is encountered, the immune system responds in 2 ways
- It produces antibodies that directly attack the pathogen.
- It produces memory cells that can very quickly divide and produce antibodies.
When the pathogen is no longer present and challenging the individual, it is a waste of resources to continually produce antibodies that aren't required, so the body doesn't. If challenged again, then the memory cells are very quickly upregulated and stimulated to produce antibodies.
Titre tests measure the presence of antibodies only. A positive titre test means there are antibodies present with a higher number indicating a recent or ongoing higher level of challenge. A low positive titre result means the current challenge is low. It is not an indication about how quickly the body can gear up to produce more antibodies if challenged again. A negative titre test means there are no antibodies currently circulating which either means there has been no challenge recently or ongoing or there is no immune cover. It is impossible to distinguish between these latter scenarios because the titre test tells you nothing about the memory cell status. If the titre test is negative but there are memory cells, then the individual still has the ability to generate antibodies to provide defence against the pathogen. If there are no antibodies and no memory cells then the individual has no immune cover and no ability to switch on antibody production.
The Ideal Immune Status Evaluation
In order to distinguish between a negative antibody titre test with or without memory cells the only way is to have done a titre test a couple of weeks post vaccination (as used to happen with the rabies vaccination when it first came out) or post nosode course to test for antibodies. If antibodies are present, then the individual has seroconverted, and it is relatively safe to assume that memory cells will also have been produced. Future titre tests are therefore more indicative of the current challenge at the time of testing than the absolute immune status/ability of the individual. Bear in mind that it takes time to generate antibodies from memory cells so cover will be slightly delayed if there are no currently circulating antibodies.
Once a positive antibody response has been measured post vaccination or nosode course then the individual has immune cover. There is evidence to suggest this can last anything up to 7 years or life-long. There is no need to revaccinate after a low positive titre test, or even after a negative one provided the initial titre test to prove seroconversion was positive.
NB: There is always a degree of risk whatever you decide to do. There is no guarantee that immune cover however generated, whether by vaccine or natural infection covered by nosode will protect against all strains, especially new mutations which may be more pathogenic. The potential to gear up the immune system also requires the individual to have that ability which will be impaired if concurrently ill and/or in older individuals, or taking immunosuppressive drugs such as steroids. There is evidence to suggest that regular vaccination impairs the immune system response over time too. The choice is yours!
Let’s get one thing straight right from the start. mRNA transfection technology is a gene therapy and NOT a vaccine.
When Roger first qualified and worked as a farm vet around Aylesbury he had a cat called Smudge who used to follow Roger and TD across the fields when they went for a walk near to home. Changing the definition of a dog to “a 4-legged furry animal that follows humans on walks” would not somehow legitimately redefine Smudge as a dog, and he wouldn’t have started barking!!
True vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system directly. They contain an antigen that can be either an inactivated pathogen or significant protein element that stimulates the body to produce antibodies against it, plus adjuvants to irritate the body at the vaccination site in order to amplify the body’s immune response. There is a known dose of both antigen and adjuvant content.
In contrast, mRNA gene therapies are designed to avoid the immune system directly. They are encapsulated in lipid-nanoparticles (LNPs) to stop the immune system getting to the mRNA and to enable the LNPs to deliver the mRNA through cell walls so that the body can use the mRNA to manufacture an antigen within the cells. Whilst the amount of LNP and mRNA in each injection is known, there is no control on how much antigen is manufactured.
Contra to what has been told to the public,
- the LNP/mRNA injected does not stay at the site of injection but gets distributed throughout the body.
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG) often used as a LNP is highly inflammatory and can cause an allergic reaction. It has the potential to be used as an adjuvant in traditional vaccines. Repeated exposure to PEG in organs and tissues that would not usually be exposed to it may increase the likelihood of such an allergy developing, and with increasing severity. PEG antibodies may already be present prior to receiving a mRNA gene therapy having already encountered it from other sources.
- Systemic distribution of LNPs creates systemic inflammation – ie throughout the body with more serious implications in organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys, lungs etc
- LNPs can flocculated and clump together, creating blockages in blood vessels not caused by clotting. The higher the concentration used the more likely this may occur. Systemic distribution risks systemic blood vessel blockages…
- If LNPs are used in low concentration then the mRNA product is very unstable unless kept at very low temperatures throughout manufacture, transportation, and storage prior to use. Product stability at higher temperatures requires higher concentrations of LNPs which increases the risks associated with LNPs manifesting.
- The mRNA can be reversed into the recipient DNA by the action of reverse transcriptase. This could cause the body to continually manufacture the antigen.
- There is no off switch for production given that pseudouridine is used instead or uridine in the mRNA and the body doesn’t recognise it.
- Unless the mRNA has 100% quality control and doesn’t include variations in the mRNA sequence, there is no way of knowing what protein the body might produce from what is effectively contaminant mRNA. The chances of manufacturing at 100% quality is next to zero, regardless of any subsequent degradation prior to injection which is highly likely given the instability of the product, hence it’s short shelf-life and temperature requirements.
- Short snippets of mRNA may be biologically active as microRNA. See later for implications.
- Cells that constantly express the antigen on their cell surface will be attacked by the initiated immune response which could start to recognise the cells themselves as foreign and develop into an autoimmune disease.
- mRNA that gets into the blood stream can act as a prion and can initiate an autoimmune response similar to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNA molecules that play a crucial role in gene regulation. They are short, non-coding RNA sequences typically composed of about 21-25 nucleotides. MicroRNAs are found in many organisms, including plants, animals, and viruses.
The primary function of microRNAs is to regulate gene expression by targeting messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules. They accomplish this by binding to specific sequences in the target mRNA, leading to mRNA degradation or inhibiting its translation into a protein. This process allows microRNAs to fine-tune the expression of genes and control various cellular processes, such as development, differentiation, cell proliferation, and metabolism, cancer cell apoptosis and much more. Consequently, the number of microRNAs of an individual type is delicately balanced. Excesses or interference with the function of microRNA could have a significant impact on health.
The discovery of microRNAs has provided insights into the complexity of gene regulation and its impact on cellular functions. Thousands of microRNAs have been identified in different organisms, but the role of each one is not yet fully understood, and researchers continue to study their roles and functions in various biological processes.
MicroRNAs have garnered significant interest due to their potential as diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets for various diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and viral infections. Their dysregulation or altered expression has been associated with numerous diseases, making them valuable candidates for developing diagnostic tests and therapeutic interventions.
In recent years, the field of microRNA research has expanded, leading to advancements in understanding their mechanisms, identifying new microRNAs, and exploring their therapeutic applications. However, there is still much to learn about the full extent of microRNA-mediated gene regulation and their precise roles in different biological contexts.
Whilst some scientists will no doubt try to reinforce the distinction between microRNA and mRNA, it is easy to see how snippets of mRNA 21-25 nucleotides in length could easily upset the balance of microRNAs and whatever cell and gene regulation that microRNA is involved with.
Whilst mRNA gene therapies have been allowed in the USA for animal use already, Roger hopes that the Veterinary Medicines Directive (VMD) in the UK will follow the real science involved with messing with RNAs and DNA, and will refuse to licence such veterinary products in the UK. Apart from the failure so far to properly research and understand the medium and long term effects on the treated animals themselves, there is no research into what effect consuming animals or animal products from mRNA-treated farm animals might have. Given that meat-production often uses relatively young animals reared specifically for that process it is unlikely that the full manifestation of medium and long term effects will be seen in the animals themselves prior to slaughter, but that doesn’t mean that changes haven't occurred, or that their produce will be safe for human consumption or for cat/dog raw pet food.
Should these mRNA products be developed to replace the current traditional veterinary vaccines in use, the medium and long term effects will no doubt be revealed, but it will be too late to save those that have already received them if the adverse effects are significant and affect a high proportion of those given the preparations, and at what frequency?
Roger hopes that the VMD will continue to safeguard our animals and require proper clinical trials including proper monitoring of medium and long term effects prior to granting market authorisation and widespread public use, with proper ongoing monitoring thereafter, and won't follow the disgraceful lead by the MHRA who have recently stated that their role has changed from that of regulator to facilitator for faster access to market for new products.
Despite the latest published guidelines by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association on vaccination regimes saying that no dog should need vaccinating more frequently than 3-yearly, there are some non-medical reasons why you may be required to get annual titre tests done in order for your vet to sign your vaccination certificate to confirm your dog has immune cover which is ultimately the whole point of the exercise. Signing just because an injection has been given does not take into consideration that not all dogs seroconvert.
Local authorities in the UK are mostly well behind the times when it comes to understanding the real science and altering legislation in line with current medical good practice. Boarding kennels, doggy day care, groomers, walkers, and anybody working with animals in a professional capacity who need to be licensed by their local authority may find that their licence stipulates that they limit their work only to those animals who have a signed vaccination certificate within 12 months previously. Local Authority licencing is not be required by all paraprofessionals, and is not uniform across all Local Authorities either, so it’s up to you to know what your personal situation requires in relation to what you need to be able to do with your animal when you need to go away and where you can't take your animal with you. It may also be a requirement of someone's professional indemnity insurance too.
Animal insurance policies are likely to exclude cover for losses and fees arising from a disease that your animal isn’t vaccinated against but could be. If you are "up to date" and still contract a diseases against which your animal is supposed to be covered then insurance is still valid and the vaccine manufacturer should be notified too. They will no doubt try to wriggle out of any liability on the basis that vaccinations aren’t 100% guaranteed to lead to seroconversion, but may pay out as a “goodwill gesture”.
Annual vaccinations originally came about because a group of vets somewhere thought it was a good idea to check over animals yearly, and what better way to get them in than for a vaccination booster?...
Vet practices may refuse to hospitalise animals not fully vaccinated. Whilst this might seem OTT it is unfortunately a sign of the times that people are far more likely to become litigious if their beloved family member contracted a serious illness whilst an inpatient from another unvaccinated inpatient. Similarly, if vaccine data sheets specify a set gap between “boosters”, vets who do not follow this regime will effectively remove the liability of the manufacturer for any adverse reaction and take on that liability themselves. Unfortunately, when common sense and up to date scientific understanding is missing, it is the animals who inevitably suffer by having scientifically unnecessary vaccinations just to satisfy a legal situation.
Having defended my colleagues on one level, I have to acknowledge that as a profession, vets have done precious little to discuss the real science, address the anomalies, and properly standardise the whole issue including legislation within Local Authorities etc.