New strain of virulent PEDv found on Minnesota hog farm

A third strain of the deadly porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) that has killed more than 8 million piglets in the U.S. alone has been uncovered in a Minnesota hog herd.

Researchers reported the new strain last month in a journal from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and said it appears to be as virulent as the original strain that hit the U.S. in 2013, Reuters reported.

Douglas Marthaler, an assistant professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota, told the news agency he believes the latest strain is a mutation of the original in reaction to increased immunity in pig herds. Previously, a second and less virulent strain was identified.

PEDv first appeared on U.S. farms in April 2013. It has since spread through 30 states. The USDA believes 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 virus outbreak has triggered higher pork prices for consumers as well as a plethora of swine carcasses--which farmers often bury underground. Those carcasses can become breeding grounds for bacteria and other pathogens. States have implemented a required method for disposal, but the often stringent process is expensive for both the farmer and the state.

Last year, the USDA gave conditional approval for use of Zoetis' ($ZTS) vaccine to combat the porcine epidemic, as well as a conditional license to Iowa-based startup Harrisvaccines for its PEDv vaccine, marketed as iPED. That vaccine sold nearly 2 million doses within weeks of becoming available.

Additionally, the company VMRD developed a diagnostic tool that can detect an antibody to PEDv. VMRD said last June it was marketing substrate slides used for screening and surveillance of the virus.

- read the CDC journal story
- check out Reuters' take