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E. coli vaccine gets full CFIA license

Ontario’s Bioniche Life Sciences has picked up full licensing approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for its vaccine to reduce shedding of E. coli O157:H7 by cattle.

The vaccine, to be marketed under the name Econiche, is thus now available for “unrestricted use” by Canadian cattle producers and their veterinarians, the Belleville company said Monday.

Supplies will, however, be limited while the company builds its $25 million expansion at Belleville to ramp up production.

Dr. Hazel Lynn, medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit, which includes the town of Walkerton, called the Econiche vaccine “an innovative way to reduce this public health risk.”

The company said its full license arrives on the heels of an E. coli outbreak associated with a Harvey’s restaurant in North Bay, Ont., where more than 200 people are reporting symptoms and there are almost 40 lab-confirmed cases of human illness. The Canwest News Service on Monday reported 217 cases of illness under investigation in nine Ontario health districts, Quebec and British Columbia.

Another E. coli outbreak has been connected to iceberg lettuce, with 50 people made ill in Michigan, Illinois and Ontario since early September, Bioniche said.

Vaccination of cattle with Econiche can help reduce the risk of food and waterborne contamination with E. coli O157:H7, the company said.

“Cows carry E. coli O157:H7 but they don’t get sick. Where the disease comes from is people encountering contaminated food or water, usually from cow feces,” said Dr. Brett Finlay, a University of British Columbia microbiologist and bacterial diseases expert, whose research led to the development of the vaccine.

Human exposure and infection with E. coli O157:H7 can result in “serious” health consequences, Bioniche said in its release, listing abdominal pain and severe bloody diarrhea, and, in severe cases, kidney damage that can lead to serious complications or death.

The vaccine was developed by a strategic alliance formed in 2000 between the University of British Columbia, the Alberta Research Council, the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), and Bioniche, which holds the rights for worldwide commercialization of the vaccine.

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