Merck releases tilapia vaccine

MSD Animal Health, known as Merck ($MRK) Animal Health in the U.S. and Canada, released a new fish vaccine on Aug. 18 that is intended to protect tilapia from a dangerous strain of Streptococcus agalactiae. Tilapia, a popular farmed food fish feeding a global demand, is especially vulnerable to the strain of strep in Thailand and Malaysia.

The Boxmeer, Netherlands-based company conducted sampling on farms all around the world and found that the strep strain accounted for about 70% of all pathogens collected, which makes it the most prevalent disease affecting farmed tilapia. In MSD's laboratory tests, fish experienced full onset of immunity one week after vaccination with its new vaccine and protection lasted for at least 12 weeks.

MSD's "Strep Control: Your Tilapia Health" program aims to "help producers confirm the strain and biotype present on their farm, implement a surveillance and vaccination program, and train staff on appropriate control strategies," according to the company press release.

In a large-scale field trial in an environment challenged by Streptococcus agalactiae biotype 1, the fish vaccine increased survival by 17%. Protection was demonstrated for the entire grow-out period. MSD maintains that vaccinated fish are safe for consumption.

Sales at Merck Animal Health have faced some headwinds after the company pulled its cattle feed additive Zilmax from the market last year following allegations from farmers of horrifying hoofless heifers. But the Merck unit managed to grow sales ever so slightly in the second quarter, which was better than the company as a whole. It attributed that success to its new FDA-approved canine drug, Bravecto. The company's animal health division reported sales of $872 million, up 2% from the same period last year.

- here's the release

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