Research team collaborate to save the bacon

July 23, 2013, University of Missouri-Columbia

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: Ferrets, pigs susceptible to H7N9 avian influenza virus

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 ...

Mannan oligosaccharides offer health benefits to pigs

July 29, 2011
Feeding mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) can fine-tune the immune system of pigs, suggests a new University of Illinois study.

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

August 17, 2012
(HealthDay) -- They were being shown off as healthy porcine specimens, but several of the show pigs at the Minnesota State Fair in 2009 actually were infected with swine flu, according to a new study.

Recommended for you

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

0 comments

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.