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Critical Role for University Research in PEDV Outbreak

12 December 2014

ANALYSIS - Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea Virus received special emphasis at last week's North American PRRS Conference in Chicago. It was made clear that it was the research done by several universities, using funding from US pig associations and not the US government, that proved critical to understanding PEDV wriets Chris Wright, Senior Editor, TheMeatSite.

Boehringer Ingleheim organised the first day of the meeting and was also a sponsor of the main conference on the second day, along with Zoetis.

More than anything it is clear that the US government failed to come to the rescue of the pig sector, but left the industry to defend itself. And knowing almost nothing about PEDV, what was needed was research on this new virus.

The research was done by several universities, using funding from US pig associations, primarily the Pork Checkoff Program. Without these investigations, the terrible damage done by PEDV would have been much worse.

In a year and a half PEDV killed 8 million piglets in the US and infected 50 per cnet of the farms in the country.

On breeding farms, naïve sows suffered more than 30 per cent mortality, and piglets in many cases suffered 100 per cent mortality.

Through the research, it was discovered that two strains, not just one, of PEDV were present in the US and that there was also a completely separate virus circulating, Swine Deltacoronavirus (PDCoV). Knowing this has been extremely valuable to the industry.

Relying on existing expertise

Some of these investigations were based on the existing expertise in the universities on other pig diseases such as PRRS, PRV (Porcine Pseudorabies), and TGE (Transmissible Gastroenteritis). Based on this knowledge, comparisons were made with PEDV, to see if there were similarities, and if so, how best to implement control strategies.

The situation in the US is much improved, and as we enter the second winter with PEDV, when the virus is usually worse, everything seems to be very calm at this time. That's partly because there are two commercial vaccines now available, and partly because of the strict biosecurity measures that are being practiced.

The very strict biosecurity practices have proved successful: closing infected herds and not opening them up again until the infection has passed completely. The use of air filters has also helped.

But much is owed to the quick work of the academics, funded by the pig farmers. Pig health companies also contributed their expertise to the growing pool of knowledge.

Clearly PEDV had its way in the US, and the research could not stop its swift and furious advance. But that's not the main purpose of research, whose role is to understand the virus and how it works, which can be used as the basis for establishing sound practices for producers.

Collaboration between producers and researchers

Another fact that is clear is that the university researchers were only successful because of the collaboration with pig producers, who were willing to share information. Without knowing in detail what happens on the farms, the laboratory research can only go so far.

This collaboration between producers and university researchers has resulted in what for now appears to be a certain level of control of this devastating virus.

No one believes that the PEDV threat is over. Rather, the researchers believe that it will be similar to PRRS, and be a disease that causes major problems for many years. But the university researchers will be there, learning more about how the virus works, discovering new techniques and methods for its control and sharing these with the industry. 

Chris Wright

Chris Wright

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