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Celebrating veterinary innovation and impact
  1. Suzanne Jarvis, BSc, Managing Editor
  1. Veterinary Record, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JR, UK, e-mail: sjarvis{at}>

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AT the BVA members' day, which took place this week in Edinburgh, the BVA gave out awards recognising members of the profession that have made exceptional contributions to the veterinary profession. This included two Veterinary Record awards, the Veterinary Record Innovation Award and the Veterinary Record Impact Award.

Here we celebrate the winners of these awards.

Veterinary Record Innovation Award

The Veterinary Record Innovation Award is a new award for this year. It was open to individuals and veterinary teams whose innovation has brought about a change or improvement in any aspect of veterinary practice.

We welcomed, and received, a broad range of quality nominations, from disease prevention strategies and practice initiatives to technical and research innovations.

From a short list of five, the clear winner was David Smith and colleagues at Moredun Research Institute for Barbervax, a vaccine against Haemonchus contortus. It is the first commercially available defined antigen vaccine for any nematode parasite of any host.

H contortus, or barber's pole worm, is considered the most important roundworm parasite of sheep and goats in the world. Infection can be fatal and has had a particular impact on the sheep industries in Australia, South Africa and South America, and on subsistence farmers in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Resistance to anthelmintic drugs is common, leading to problems with control.

The antibodies in Barbervax, which are ingested by any resident Haemonchus, neutralise the parasite's digestive enzymes, leading to malnutrition, reduced egg production, weakness and eventually loss of worms.

Barbervax was registered for use in Australian lambs in early October 2014 and is produced in collaboration with the Albany laboratory of the Department of Agriculture and Food in Western Australia. Three seasons of trials in Australian merino sheep gave good results, with modelling indicating that the level of control achieved was superior to conventional anthelmintic programmes. In the first year of commercial use producers who used the vaccine correctly had no signs of haemonchosis in their flocks.

The judges felt this entry truly demonstrated innovation. The product is innovative, as is the science that led to its development. They also felt that having no large pharmaceutical company involvement was unusual and could be an interesting model for others to consider. Ultimately, as Babervax was now available commercially the team behind it had been able to demonstrate not only that it was innovative but also that it was able to improve the health and welfare of treated sheep in the real world.

Veterinary Record Impact Award

The Veterinary Record Impact Award recognises the research paper published in Veterinary Record in the previous 12 months that is considered likely to have the most significant practical impact.

The award has been renamed this year, having previously been called the William Hunting Award (VR, November 23, 2013, vol 173, pp 497-498).

The winners for 2015 are Nathalie Porters and colleagues, from Ghent university, for two papers published during the year on prepubertal gonadectomy (PPG) – or early neutering – in cats. Prepubertal gonadectomy is performed on kittens aged eight to 12 weeks, rather than the more traditional age for neutering of six to eight months old.

In the first paper (Porters and others 2014), the authors looked at the success and time taken for surgical techniques for prepubertal gonadectomy, and also compared complications with a group of cats neutered at the more traditional age. Early neutering was found to be as safe as neutering cats later, with few complications for all groups. The early neutering techniques also took less time.

Researchers at the Moredun Research Institute have developed a vaccine against the barber's pole worm, Haemonchus contortus, the first commercially available defined antigen vaccine against a nematode parasite

Photograph: Moredun Research Institute

Nathalie Porters and colleagues' research has provided evidence that ‘early’ neutering of cats is as safe as neutering cats at a later stage

Photograph: Cats Protection

The comments of one the reviewers to the authors highlights why this paper was chosen: ‘Congratulations on a well designed and well performed study. You should be applauded on investigating an issue which has wide ranging implications and affects the practice of all veterinary practitioners, not just specialists.’

In an accompanying editorial in Veterinary Record, David Yates and James Yeates (2014), commented: ‘This study demonstrates a laudable link between research and reality, both in terms of external validity and practical applicability . . . The paper adds to the growing evidence that neutering cats at the age of eight to 12 weeks appears to be as safe, or safer than, neutering of post-pubescent cats.’

In the second paper (Porters and others 2015), short- and long-term health problems were evaluated in relation to the age at neutering in cats adopted from animal shelters. The cats were followed for 24 months, and were evaluated specifically for feline lower urinary tract disease, urethral obstruction in male cats, lameness, fractures and hypersensitivity disorders. No significant differences were found in health problems between the early neutered cats and those neutered at the traditional age.

The importance of adding these results to the literature was emphasised by one of the reviewers: ‘This is a nice paper describing a very well done clinical trial on selected health issues in cats neutered at eight to 12 weeks or at six to eight months of age . . . it is an improvement over previous work and really adds definitive results to the literature.’

In an editorial that accompanied the paper, Maggie Roberts and Jane Clements (2015) discussed the importance of early neutering in helping to control cat overpopulation and how veterinarians' concerns over the possible risks from early neutering needed to be addressed to change practice. ‘Many UK vets [are] concerned about surgical and anaesthetic complications and the risk of long-term complications after PPG . . . it is right that there should be a strong evidence base for changes in veterinary procedures including elective ones such as gonadectomy. This is why the paper by Porters and colleagues is a valuable addition to our knowledge base.’ They also commented: ‘If animal welfare is at the heart of our profession, we should embrace techniques such as PPG for the benefit of the individual and the feline population whether they are owned, stray or feral cats.’


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