Academic vets make strides in ongoing fight against deadly pig viruses

Some pigs are born with tremors that are so serious they can't nurse properly. The shakes, which can lead to malnutrition and starvation, come from a virus that's been recognized for nearly 100 years but had never been defined--until now.

Veterinary researchers at Iowa State University have pinpointed the bug as a member of a family known as "pestiviruses," according to a press release from Iowa State. Collaborating with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, the vets used DNA sequencing techniques to scrutinize virus samples taken from piglets. That allowed them to identify the virus.

The diagnostic laboratory at the university will now be able to use genetic sequencing to confirm cases of the virus. Ultimately the researchers hope to develop a vaccine.

At Kansas State University, veterinary researchers recently reported progress in the ongoing battle against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv). The disease first appeared in the U.S. in 2013 and has since led to the deaths of an estimated 8 million piglets. K-State researchers are tracking the virus in animal feed, in an attempt to develop biosecurity measures that could help stop its spread.

In one study, the researchers discovered that heating up a commonly used swine feed to 130 degrees Fahrenheit during commercial processing greatly reduces the infectivity of PEDv. "By successfully determining an appropriate combination of conditioning time and temperature that can impact PEDv infectivity, we have established a mitigation step that can be implemented quickly in commercial feed production," said Jason Woodworth, a research associate professor of animal sciences and industry at K-State, in a press release.

The K-State team is also investigating a variety of other virus-mitigating techniques, such as using feed additives and adjusting feeding schedules to further minimize the chance of contamination.

While there are vaccines on the market for PEDv, made by Zoetis ($ZTS) and Harrisvaccines, the epidemic continues to raise worries in the swine industry. The virus appears to be mutating: Two additional strains have emerged since the original outbreak, strengthening the calls for better biosecurity measures.

- here's the Iowa State release
- read more about the K-State project here