020009: Compositions and Methods for Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis (ECE) Therapeutics and Diagnostics in Ferrets

In 1999, a coronavirus was identified as the cause of Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis (ECE) in ferrets, a highly contagious diarrheal disease for which there are no effective diagnostics, therapeutics, or preventatives. This disease costs ferret breeders and owners millions of dollars a year in health care costs and lost revenue. In 1996, approximately 800,000 domestic ferrets resided as pets in the United States and many other ferrets are used extensively as animal models in biomedical research. Currently, ECE is restricted to the ferret population, however coronavirus can cause disease in many other species including canine, feline, porcine, bovine, rodents, and man (SARS). Pharma is keenly interested in the Animal Health arena, including diagnostics, screening, treatment, and prevention, as demonstrated by the rise in R&D and acquisitions in this market. The veterinary vaccine sector accounted for 20% of global animal health product revenues in 2004, and global sales totaled $3.2 billion. It is estimated that the sector will grow in excess of $4 billion by 2009.


This invention encompasses compositions of novel oligonucleotide sequences from the ferret coronavirus and methods to develop ECE therapeutics, prevention, and diagnostic screening assays for use in ferrets. This invention also includes the generation of cell lines that express these oligonucleotide sequences, enabling a screening test for potential therapeutics such as proteins that bind to ferret coronavirus binding sites.


  • Specifically targeted effective therapies and prevention: Mutations or fragments of the coronavirus oligonucleotide sequences could be used to produce antibodies for therapeutic interventions or to elicit a preventative protective response, e.g. vaccine.
  • Effective diagnostic assay for ECE: Antibodies to the coronavirus oligonucleotide sequences could be used to identify key components of the coronavirus involved in cell mediated immunity and viral assembly.
  • Targeted screening assay for therapeutic candidates: The screening test targets proteins that bind specifically to ferret coronavirus binding sites.
  • A new in vitro model for coronavirus research: This invention provides an in vitro system for future coronavirus research which may result in R&D discoveries that will later benefit human health.


The invention's compositions and methods would be used by veterinary and medical pharmaceutical companies to develop preventatives, diagnostics and therapeutics for ECE in ferrets and possibly in other species including humans. The end users would be veterinarians and possibly physicians.

Development Status

This invention is in early stage development; the next step is proof of concept studies.

IP Protection Status

US 7255986 (issued Aug 14, 2007)

Additional Information

Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Anne Disante
Associate Director
Michigan State University