Research team collaborate to save the bacon

July 23, 2013

A research team from the University of Missouri and Kansas State University has been working to find a cure for a specific virus that affects pigs and costs the hog industry $800 million annually. In their latest study, the team disproved one way the virus spreads, which will help scientists narrow the search for an ultimate cure.

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSV) can inhibit pigs from reproducing and slow the growth of young pigs. Once pigs are infected, the only remedy is for hog farmers to cull their , which has cost farmers approximately $800 million annually.

"Initially, scientists believed that PRRSV bound to a specific molecule, known as CD169, and infected in the lungs," said Randall Prather, distinguished professor of reproductive biotechnology in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "In our study, we've found that this is probably not how the is infecting pigs."

In the study, Prather genetically modified a litter of pigs so they would not generate the CD 169 molecule; therefore, the virus would have nothing to bind to and would be killed by the pigs' natural immune systems. However, after an initial test, the genetically modified pigs did become infected with PRRSV, negating the initial theory.

"While we didn't find what we were looking for, we did uncover important information about the infection," Prather said. "This information will help us narrow our search as we continue to fight this virus. We'll keep searching for answers until we determine how to stop PRRSV."

When are infected with the disease, farmers must clean everything, Prather said. That means culling the herd, cleaning the and letting the pens sit empty until all viral material is killed. If that doesn't happen, the virus can continue infecting new groups of hogs. Farmers have had access to vaccines for the last two decades, but experts warn they are not the best tool to fight the disease.

"Vaccines have been shown to lessen the impact of the disease on farms, but they are not a good tool to control or eradicate the virus," said Raymond (Bob) Rowland, co-author of the study and professor of virology at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "With this new information, we understand more about the mechanisms of this virus and how it acts once inside the pig's body."

Both Prather and Rowland agree that the study was only possible due to the collaboration of the scientists in their respective laboratories.

"To go and find these answers to the problems plaguing farmers, I need to find friends that have expertise in areas that I don't know anything about," Rowland said. "Randy Prather knows genes; I know viruses. Together, we can get a lot of work done very quickly"

Explore further: Healthy-looking pigs at state fair found to have swine flu

More information: The study, "An intact sialoadhesin (Sn/SIGLECI/CD169) is not required for attachment/internalization of the porcine reproductive respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV)," was recently published in the Journal of Virology.

Related Stories

Ferrets, pigs susceptible to H7N9 avian influenza virus

May 23, 2013

Chinese and U.S. scientists have used virus isolated from a person who died from H7N9 avian influenza infection to determine whether the virus could infect and be transmitted between ferrets. Ferrets are often used as a mammalian ...

Recommended for you

Monkeys in Asia harbor virus from humans, other species

November 19, 2015

When it comes to spreading viruses, bats are thought to be among the worst. Now a new study of nearly 900 nonhuman primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia shows that macaques harbor more diverse astroviruses, which can cause ...

One-step test for hepatitis C virus infection developed

November 14, 2015

UC Irvine Health researchers have developed a cost-effective one-step test that screens, detects and confirms hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Dr. Ke-Qin Hu, director of hepatology services, will present findings at the ...

Computer model reveals deadly route of Ebola outbreak

November 10, 2015

Using a novel statistical model, a research team led by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health mapped the spread of the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, providing the most detailed picture to date ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.