Canadian researchers think they may have found a way to stop porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, a scourge that has killed millions of pigs in recent years.
A prototype vaccine has been developed that could protect the North American swine industry from the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). The disease has killed more than eight million pigs and cost over $400 million in lost revenue since 2013.
PEDV is caused by a member of the virus family Coronaviridae, which also includes human diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). PEDV results in high morbidity in populations of pigs, usually 100%, and an extremely high mortality rate — as high as 100% in infected piglets. The incubation period for the virus is short, usually two to four days. Natural immunity to the disease develops over two or three weeks. The virus spreads through fecal-oral contact and fomites and occurs only in pigs.
The virus was first discovered in Europe in 1971. Cases were first identified in the United States in 2013, and the disease spread rapidly to Canada in 2014. It’s also becoming increasing problematic in Asian countries, with swine populations in China being especially impacted. Current research has identified transportation and places where swine are concentrated, like markets and buying stations, as key sites of virus contamination and routes of exposure to naïve populations.
Scientists at the University of Saskatchewan developed and tested the prototype PEDV vaccine in less than a year. The university conducted research and developed the vaccine at a new Level 3 containment facility known as VIDO-InterVac. Scientists were able to show that the vaccine protected up to 100% of the piglets vaccinated against PEDV. These successful results sparked the interest of several animal health companies, including Huvepharma. Working together, both organizations hope to develop technology for commercial vaccine production in North America.
“This is an exciting partnership with a world-class organization. Our goal is to have the vaccine available for commercial use as soon as possible to help stop producer losses.”, said Dr. Boris Gavrilov, senior scientist for biologics development at Huvepharma.
The prototype PEDV vaccine is now undergoing field testing in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and is being used to protect piglets from a recent PEDV outbreak. Field testing is being conducted with the full support of the swine industry.