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South Dakota developing a vaccine for pets

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As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to infect humans worldwide, a South Dakota company says they have produced a COVID-19 vaccine, for animals.

Medgene Labs in Brookings, says America is home to around 90 million house cats with are a species that COVID-19 Has tested positive in and a vaccine they created could slow the spread.

Medgene Labs is the first and only federally-licensed vaccine facility in South Dakota, The lab usually provides vaccines and services to livestock producers and veterinarians, but since the start of the pandemic they've been working on something new, a COVID-19 vaccine for pets.

"We currently have a vaccine target made for companion animals." Sue Lancaster, VP of Development and Strategy for Medgene Labs said

"The next stage that we are at is to actually look in the animal models themselves, either cats or mink, and look for protection." Alan Young the Medgene Labs Chief Technology Officer said

Medgene Labs says they believe they are one of only a few labs in the nation focusing on the animal component of this new virus. Studies have shown that COVID-19 can infect companion animals, and there has been evidence of animal-to-human transmission.

"Cats, ferrets, and mink have shown to be susceptible to the disease. To date, there has been very clear transmission from humans to cats, we haven't yet seen transmission from cats back to humans with the current strain that's circulating. We have on the other hand seen it with mink." Young said.

Medgene staff adds that viruses can always change amn evolve, and preventing pet to human infections is their focus.

"For example, if you have the Coronavirus and you give it to your pet cat; they may quarantine you but they don't quarantine your pet cat. The concern is that your pet cat can then transmit it back to other individuals." Young said.

A large part of completing the vaccine process is funding, and if that comes Medgene Labs could produce enough vaccines for pets across the U.S.

"Currently we have 48 million dose capacity in our production facility, and if we get an infusion of funding, we'd look to expand that capacity to 250 million doses." Lancaster said.

If all goes correctly with testing and funding, this vaccine could be ready to protect pets nationwide in 2021.

NBC News

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