Zoetis Funds 2 Pig Virus Research Studies

Researchers at Iowa State University and Suidae Health and Production will assist in the fight against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv).

Researchers will look at multiple vaccination strategies for fighting PEDv, which is especially deadly to young pigs.

Rachael Brugger

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A swine-exclusive veterinary clinic and university researchers will use $157,000 in grants to study porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has killed millions of piglets across the United States and Canada.

Drug and vaccine maker Zoetis Inc. awarded the money to Suidae Health and Production, a veterinary practice with offices in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, and to Iowa State University.

The research grants are intended to find better ways to control PEDv in breeding and farrowing herds, according to Florham Park, N.J.-based Zoetis.

“We were interested in proposals that help discover novel approaches for optimizing the immune response of sows and gilts to help control PEDv,” said Steve Sornsen, DVM, MS, senior director of Veterinary Business Solutions at Zoetis.

“The outcome of these projects should provide insights into new PEDv control methods that can be incorporated into current production systems for the industry,” Dr. Sornsen added.

Grant applicants were narrowed to eight finalists and then to the two recipients. Both projects are expected to be completed in 2015, Zoetis stated.

Suidae was awarded $98,000 to study the efficacy of vaccination in boosting the immune response to PEDv in both naïve sows and previously exposed sows, Zoetis reported Wednesday. Some naïve sows will receive a placebo.

Iowa State, which received $59,000, has engaged in other PEDv projects with Zoetis.

“Losses in breeding herds chronically affected by PEDv can be devastating,” said Derald Holtkamp, DVM, MS, a swine researcher and assistant professor at Iowa State. “The source of the problem in these chronically affected herds appears to be an imbalance between immunity passed onto the piglets and the viral load of PEDv in the environment.”

Iowa State will examine the effectiveness of Zoetis’ killed vaccine.

“Our goal is to then determine if we can measure and predict PEDv immunity and if that immunity improves productivity in a chronically affected breeding herd,” said Chris Rademacher, DVM, an Iowa State swine extension veterinarian.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture last year approved conditional licenses for the first two PEDv vaccines—one to Harrisvaccines of Ames, Iowa, for iPED+ and the second to Zoetis for a two-dose inactivated vaccine. Further studies could lead to full licensure of the two vaccines.

PEDv has spread to 33 states since the first U.S. case was confirmed in May 2013. The highly contagious virus was classified as a reportable disease in April 2014.

The virus is transmitted orally to pigs of all ages through feces and contaminated farm equipment and clothing. Nearly all infected piglets up to 3 weeks old succumb to the disease, while weaned and adult pigs are at lower risk.

Zoetis noted that new cases of PEDv reached 12-month lows in mid-October but began to increase again in December as colder weather arrived.

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