The Equine Research Hall of Fame — Baltus J. Erasmus
Dr. Baltus Johannes Erasmus; South Africa - Renowned throughout the world for his research in African horsesickness, Dr. Erasmus contributed to veterinary medicine for more than 30 years through the development and improvement of vaccines against AHS, equine influenza and additional diseases of horses and other livestock. His virology work at the Veterinary Research Institute in Onderstepoort, South Africa, not only explained and defined the pathogenesis and varied clinical manifestations of AHS in the horse, but led to the development of several vaccines that have been used to control this disease worldwide.
Inducted December 1995 .
Dr. Erasmus was born in 1939 in Koppies, South Africa, and grew up "the son of a poor farming family." He qualified as a veterinarian from the University of Pretoria in November of 1960 with honors, and joined the virology section of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute in January of 1961 as a researcher. He was promoted to head of the Virology Section in 1967, became Assistant Director in 1976, was named Deputy Director in 1984 and was appointed as Director of Onderstepoort Biological Products in 1992. He also lectured in Virology and Viral Disease at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Pretoria on a part-time basis from 1964 to 1972, and acted as external examiner in Viral Diseases from 1973 until 1991. Dr. Erasmus was awarded the Gold Medal of the South African Veterinary Association in 1988 “for his fundamental scientific contribution in the field of viral diseases in horses and sheep and the development and improvement of vaccines against African horsesickness, bluetongue, and equine influenza.” He also was elected as Agriculturist of the Year by the South African Agricultural Writers Association.
In the late 1960's, Dr. Erasmus found that genetically stable large plaque mutants of AHS virus were non-pathogenic of horses. He used this breakthrough to develop a safe, non-neurotropic, live attenuated vaccine against AHS. Then, using bluetongue virus from sheep, Dr. Erasmus and colleagues from around the world discovered that proteins from the virus could be used to produce protective immunity. Proved effective in trials, Dr. Erasmus said he leaves these subunit vaccines “to my successors to carry on.”
Dr. Erasmus was responsible for the OIE World Reference Centre for AHS beginning in 1963, and for bluetongue starting in 1974. The AHS vaccine he developed that is currently in use in South Africa and many other African countries also was used for the control of AHS in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco during the 1987-1990 outbreak. More than a million doses of monovalent type 4 AHS vaccine was utilized. He has developed papers at many local and international conferences, and he attended the first six Conferences on Equine Infectious Diseases. He has acted as a consultant to several countries on bluetongue, AHS and equine encephalosis.
Maxwell H.Gluck Equine Research Center
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