PEDv diagnostic hits market as vets predict 2.5 million more deaths

With the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) wiping out some 100,000 piglets a week, animal health companies are scrambling to develop products that help swine producers fight back. Now, animal health company VMRD has developed a diagnostic tool that can be used to detect an antibody to PEDv.

VMRD announced at the end of last month that its new substrate slides can be used for screening and surveillance of the deadly diarrhea-inducing virus. The company is looking to pull profit from the test with PEDv's dramatically high mortality rate--newborn piglets, which are most susceptible to the virus, typically die within five days of contracting it. 

The diagnostic tool comes on the heels of a vaccine for the virus granted a conditional license by the USDA on June 16. Iowa-based startup Harrisvaccines has sold nearly 2 million doses of the vaccine--dubbed iPED--since late last year. But veterinarians warned at the time of approval that another 2.5 million piglets will probably succumb to the virus within 12 months.

Joel Harris, Harrisvaccines' head of sales and marketing, expressed his own concerns that the vaccine might not fare well in cold weather conditions. The virus is now slowing down as warmer weather keeps it somewhat at bay.

PEDv is estimated to have killed some 8 million piglets since it first appeared on U.S. farms in April 2013. It has since spread through 30 states. The USDA believes that the virus may have been introduced by feral hogs, which can weigh more than 400 lbs., making them large enough not only to carry off newborn animals but also to cause about $1.5 billion in damage a year, the USDA estimates.

The PEDv outbreak poses a two-pronged crisis to American food producers. Pork prices are shooting up, and swine corpses--which farmers often bury underground--are breeding grounds for bacteria and other pathogens. States have implemented a required method for disposal, but the often stringent processes require hefty expenses for both the farmer and the state. 

Ethan Adams, vice president of the Pullman, WA, company, said in a release that "we are not certain that this slide will be our final answer to the need for a PEDv diagnostic," but said the company was rapidly reacting to the situation in the market. 

- here's the release from VMRD (PDF)