EU Commission aims to find answers on PED virus for EU pig sector: EFSA to assess risks

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

EU Commission aims to find answers on PED virus for EU pig sector: EFSA to assess risks

Related tags Pig European food safety authority

The EU Commission has asked EFSA to assess the risks posed by porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus as well as the emerging pig Deltacoronavirus.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is expected to publish its advice in October this year.

PED was first identified in Europe in the early 1970s, when the disease was discovered in the UK in a pig holding affected by acute diarrhea in fattening pigs.

Afterwards, the virus was detected in several countries in Europe. In the 1980s and 1990s outbreaks became less frequent in Europe, but the virus soon proved problematic for pig farms in Asia.

In May 2013, PED was identified for the first time in the US and spread rapidly to several federal states and also to Canada.

There is no known effective vaccine for the virus, which is deadly for nursing pigs but not adult pigs. PED has already killed millions of piglets in the US.

EFSA said that, on the basis of the information available, it appears that a new Deltacoronavirus, identified for the first time in Hong Kong two years ago, is also circulating in the US and in Canada, in addition to the ‘classic’ PED.

“In order to better determine the extent of the problem and be prepared to face the possible re-emergence of the disease, the Commission asked EFSA for specific advice to assess the risks posed by PED strains currently circulating in the US, Canada and Asia,” ​said a spokesperson for the Parma-based authority.

An EU Commission representative told us that the potential for animal feed to act as a transmission vector for both viruses will be examined as part of EFSA’s review.

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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