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PED virus: industry and academics investigate feed transmission route

By Jane Byrne

13-May-2014
Last updated on 13-May-2014 at 15:50 GMT2014-05-13T15:50:34Z

A leading US grain association has added to the livestock industry’s war chest to pursue research on feed links and the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) that has devastated the swine industry in the US.

Although PEDv does not affect humans or pork safety, it has infected and killed millions of piglets on farms of all sizes in 27 US states since May 2013 and in four Canadian provinces since January this year. 

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) said its funding to the tune of $60,000 is going towards the research being undertaken by the US National Pork Board (NPB) into several feed-related areas to see if there is a link between feed and the spread of PEDv.

Building arsenal of information  

Last month saw Cargill put $150,000 towards the NPB’s research efforts on the pig virus.

Paul Sundberg, vice president of science and technology at the NPB, in April said financing from industry – which in April hit the $2m mark - was helping the trade group continue to build an arsenal of information on the virus.

Part of the focus of the NBP backed research on PED is investigating the effectiveness and cost of treatments to mitigate the survival of it and other viruses in feeds. 

More than 60 industry stakeholders were present at a roundtable discussion in Iowa, organized by the NPB in March this year, to see how PEDv could be eliminated and to determine if feed may play a role in how pigs are infected.

The participants agreed the virus is of Asian origin genetically, but its direct pathway to North America remains unknown. 

And the group concurred that there are multiple ways for pigs to become infected via a fecal-oral route, including environmental, transportation, feed systems and other vectors.

KSU team aiming to slow down spread of PEDv

Kansas State University (KSU) researchers are also trying to find answers for the swine industry on the virus.

Cassandra Jones, assistant professor of grain sciences and industry at KSU, along with her grain sciences colleague, Charles Stark, are teaming up with Steve Dritz, professor of diagnostic medicine pathobiology and swine specialist at KSU to “to learn and understand and figure out how we can slow the spread of this virus.”

The team will be using a live virus and intentionally inoculating feed.

“Our strength is feed here at K-State,” said Dritz, “And we have a lot of good infectious disease researchers too, so we are trying to build on those strengths.”

The team is still working on ways to cure the virus and prevent it before it happens; currently the only method is to feed pigs a small amount of the virus to create immunity. Since the disease is so new, there is no effective vaccine available yet.

“Unfortunately, though, this is a class of virus that, due to the way immunity is developed, the traditional way you give vaccines by injection haven’t been proved effective,” added Dritz.

The KSU researchers are also calling on different area experts including veterinarians, swine nutritionists, meat processors, pork producers, and swine specialists to assist them in their inquiries.

Canadian feed recall

In February this year, Ontario feed maker, Grand Valley Fortifiers, said porcine plasma in feed may pose a risk of transmission of the PED virus after it was forced to recall feed pellets from its swine producer customers that had “contained live virus capable of infecting pigs.” 

CEO of the feed company, Ian Ross, said that month that the firm had removed all porcine plasma from its feed products and he called on the entire feed sector to no longer formulate, have manufactured or sell pelleted nursery feed that contains porcine origin ingredients.

But tests by the Canadian regulator in the same month proved inconclusive on a link between PEDv and the feed pellets in question. 

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