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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Shipping Fever Vaccine Nears Market

By Linda McGraw
December 21, 1998

Cows headed to feedlots may soon be getting a protective vaccine against shipping fever, a disease that costs U.S. and Canadian producers more than $1 billion annually.

Scientists developed the genetically engineered vaccine at the Agricultural Research Service, the chief scientific arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The disease is the biggest killer of beef cattle in feedlots, according to veterinarian Robert E. Briggs at ARS' National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa.

Three different bacteria can cause shipping fever, which ultimately results in pneumonia. The disease strikes cattle about a week after they’re transported from the cow and calf operations where they were born to the feedlots where they finish their growth. When the animals arrive at the feedlot, they may show a variety of disease symptoms, including decreased appetite, fever, coughing and nasal discharge.

Briggs and ARS microbiologist Fred M. Tatum developed the world’s first genetically engineered vaccine strains for this costly disease. They didn’t use foreign DNA or a marker for antibiotic resistance to make the vaccine. Rather, they created the live vaccine by deleting a large piece of a gene called aroA from each of the three culprit bacteria. Without this gene, the bacteria cannot cause infection.

Several patents have been issued jointly to ARS and the Biotechnology Research and Development Consortium in Peoria, Ill. The consortium is a public-private business formed to speed commercialization of government-funded research discoveries. Schering-Plough of Madison, N.J., is a member company that has licensed the technology to make multivalent injectable vaccines. The firm is currently seeking approval to market the product.

An article about the research appears in the December issue of Agricultural Research magazine. The story is also on the World Wide Web at:


Scientific contact: Robert E. Briggs and Fred M. Tatum, ARS National Animal Disease Center, Ames, Iowa, phone (515) 239-8639, fax (515) 239-8458, and

Last Modified: 5/15/2017
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