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Investigating the Role of Genomics in Combatting Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea

Last week, at the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Conference, Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart announced $3.8M in funding to support livestock-related research projects. One of the projects will investigate genetic resistance to Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED).

PED is a coronavirus, a subset of RNA viruses (http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=22789). It causes diarrhea and vomiting in swine, with up to 100% mortality in nursing piglets. Although highly virulent in swine populations, the virus is not zoonotic, and does not pose a risk to human health or the health of other animals.

The virus was first confirmed in the United States in mid-May of 2013 and on January 22, 2014, the province of Ontario informed the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that the first case had been confirmed in Canada (a farm in Middlesex County, Ontario).

Since then, PED has been confirmed in Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island. It is transferred through direct contact, and through contact with objects contaminated with the feces of infected animals.

According to the Canadian Swine Health Intelligence Network, the current goal for industry is to limit the spread of the virus, primarily through adherence to stringent biosecurity protocols.

One of the most important protocols in biosecurity is cleanliness. In November of 2014, the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board received $150,000 of federal and provincial funding to help deliver a new phase in the Saskatchewan Swine Biosecurity Program. The province intends to use the resources for education on transport biosecurity, truck wash and transport audits, and veterinary visits related to PED

But, prevention can include parameters outside of biosecurity. On January 30, 2014, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced that the CFIA was prepared to issue permits to authorize the import of iPED+ vaccine under veterinary authorization. The vaccine, intended for use in emergency situations, will not prevent disease in all cases, but can prevent death and production losses in some scenarios.

In addition, producers should pay close attention to how swine manure is managed. (If interested, watch the video below, and check out the full list of guidelines from Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs).

The latest funding announcement also looks beyond biosecurity, and into the realm of genomics. Of the $3.8M announced last week, $50,000 will go towards “Enhanced Molecular Diagnostiscs and Validating Genetic Resistance to PEDV in Pigs,” a study conducted through the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

According to the file the objectives are four-fold. The primary goal is to provide novel diagnostic and control strategies to infected farms, and help protect others from infection. Secondly, it is hoped the research will lead to improved diagnosis and industry control of PED. In addition, the study will provide new information to improve the way industry responds to outbreaks. And finally, the development of molecular tools will help determine the feasibility of selecting resistant lines through genetic screening.

“If resistant alleles are confirmed they can be applied relatively quickly by selecting for boars homozygous for such alleles” (See the list of livestock-related projects).

Other projects will look at improving host resistance and developing a new generation of modified live virus vaccine.

The funding is provided through the Agriculture Development Fund under Growing Forward 2.

Investigating the Role of Genomics in Combatting Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea

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