University of Minnesota researchers have developed a rapid diagnostic test for porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus, mere months after the viral diease was first confirmed in the U.S. swine population,
 

The first-of-its-kind test, which is available now, provides a way to quickly and cost-effectively identify the presence of PED virus strains in the United States.

Characterized by acute diarrhea and vomiting, a PED virus outbreak wipes out an average of 50% of young swine at newly affected farms. PED virus poses no risk to other animal or human health and no risk to food safety. Should PED virus become widespread, however, the pork industry could suffer significant losses. The virus has been confirmed in 16 states. There is no known vaccine or treatment for the virus.

Samples from animals suspected of carrying PED virus can be submitted to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) for testing. Test results are known within 24 hours, allowing for pork producers to take necessary precautions to prevent further spread. Genetic material is also extracted from the samples, which can be tested and tracked to monitor PED virus spread.

Samples including swine fecal swabs, saliva, serum, feed, and fecal, intestinal and lung tissues can be tested via a multiplex assay which identifies the presence of not just PED virus, but also transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) – a known, similar RNA virus. Pairing the tests improves affordability to agriculture by bringing the cost of the test to less than $50.

“The University of Minnesota has been preparing for the arrival of an infectious disease like PED virus by making strategic investments over the past 10-20 years,” says James Collins, DVM, director of the VDL, professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and expert in food animal diagnostic medicine and infectious disease. “Agriculture is such an important part of what we do in Minnesota and thanks to preparation and the help of our partners, we were able to mobilize available resources and technology quickly to turn around a new test in just a few months. In our mind, the point where research can move this quickly is the pinnacle of where we need to be.”

In addition to development of the test, the University of Minnesota team has completed sequencing the DNA of one strain of U.S. PED virus. The sequence has been deposited into the GenBank database in the National Center for Biotechnology Information to help amplify the research potential of new PED virus genome understanding.

Development of a cost-effective bioassay to determine whether PED virus is being spread via non-genetic materials including feedstuffs is ongoing at the university. Investigations aim to both identify the presence of PED virus and determine whether it is alive and active, thus posing a risk. The University of Minnesota, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Pork Producers Association, also continues to investigate how PED virus first entered the United States and further ways to best limit its spread.

“This is an important new disease that’s entered the United States, and we have to try to mitigate its damage. The University of Minnesota is working diligently to help address the problem,” Collins says.

Collaborators in this project include the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, its Swine Disease Eradication Center, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the University of Minnesota BioMedical Genomics Center.

Funding was provided by the Minnesota Rapid Agricultural Response Fund, the National Pork Board and Zoetis Animal Health.

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