A North Dakota company that discovered an antibody technology while trying to cure flocks of dying geese is using its research for a more warm and fuzzy purpose: saving puppies.
Early tests performed on about 50 puppies have resulted in a 90 per cent cure rate for canine parvovirus, which spreads through animal waste and direct contact between dogs, usually at kennels, shelters and shows.
Some puppies die from the virus and others are put down because the antibiotics and other medicine needed to treat it can be too expensive - sometimes up to US$2,000 - and take too long. The new treatment made by Avianax costs about US$75.
Officials at the Kansas City Pet Project in Missouri, one of eight test sites and among the largest shelters in the United States, believe the treatment will lead to a dramatic increase in parvo survival rates.
"When the box arrived we were yelling, 'Woo, the geese antibodies are here!"' shelter spokeswoman Tori Fugate said. "Just the fact that someone is caring out there is pretty remarkable. A lot of open admission shelters choose to not treat parvo because it's considered too much of a resource."
Avianax chief operating officer Richard Glynn hopes to start selling the parvoONE treatment for US$75 a dose by next spring.
"I think there will be a lot of puppy owners who will be very happy," Glynn said.
The company's path to puppy love began a decade ago after a mysterious disease - later found to be West Nile virus - spread among flocks at the South Dakota-based Schiltz Goose Farm, the largest goose producer in North America.
Farm owners James and Richard Schiltz and Glynn, who was working for them, found researchers at the University of North Dakota who were interested in the project.
The group, led by Dr David Bradley, the university medical school's chair of microbiology and immunisation, discovered antibodies in the geese that they could purify and put back into other birds. The treatment worked.
Avianax quickly found promising links between goose antibodies and treatments for other diseases, including parvo.
The trials have shown the new drug can work as quickly as two days, said Dr Darin Meulebroeck, chief medical officer for Avianax.