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OARDC scientists working to fight new deadly U.S. swine disease

Food animal health researchers with CFAES are looking for a unique way to test for and trace the spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), a disease of swine that was found for the first time in the U.S. in April and that has impacted hundreds of hog operations in 15 states, including Ohio.

Funded by the National Pork Board, virologists Linda Saif and Qiuhong Wang are working on a six-month project that involves growing the virus in the lab and using this material to develop a serological test, which will allow scientists to determine how widespread PEDV is in the U.S. swine population.

"Serology allows you to trace the history of the outbreak through antibodies," said Saif, an international expert on viral diseases of swine and cattle and a Distinguished University Professor in theFood Animal Health Research Program, part of OARDC. "This is very important in this case because we don't know how and where PEDV got into the U.S., and how it is spreading across state lines."


"The entire U.S. swine population is at risk of this disease because it doesn't have any immunity to the virus."—Linda Saif

Growing the virus in cell culture and developing a serological test are also important steps for the future development of a vaccine against PEDV, Saif said. Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for the disease. Biosecurity measures are the only way to protect herds.

PEDV belongs to the coronavirus family, which is known to cause respiratory and intestinal diseases in mammals and birds. It has been present in Europe since the 1970s and in Asia since the 1980s. PEDV causes intestinal disease in swine, especially young pigs. It is transmitted via feces or insects contaminated with feces.

People, pork unaffected

PEDV does not sicken humans and does not impact the safety of pork products.

"The entire U.S. swine population is at risk of this disease because it doesn't have any immunity to the virus," Saif said. "We have seen 50-100 percent mortality in baby pigs. Adults pigs only show mild illness, but the problem is that the pigs can become carriers of the virus and spread it to other pigs."

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-- Mauricio Espinoza, Communications and Technology