Enhancing Swine Health Management through Advanced Genetic Monitoring

Enhancing Swine Health Management through Advanced Genetic Monitoring

In an effort to combat significant revenue losses due to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSV) in the U.S., a collaborative team of researchers from several leading institutions has developed a novel tool for rapid disease detection and management. Funded by a $1 million grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, scientists at Iowa State University, along with partners from South Dakota State University, University of Minnesota, Kansas State University, Ohio Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory, and Purdue University, are leveraging the capabilities of the Swine Disease Reporting System (SDRS).

The SDRS has introduced a web-based tool, the SDRS BLAST Tool (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool), which enables users such as veterinarians and producers to compare PRRSV genetic sequences against a database maintained within the system. This innovative approach facilitates anonymous data sharing, enhancing decision-making processes for managing and controlling the economically significant PRRSV. According to Dr. Giovani Trevisan of Iowa State University, this tool represents a significant advance in maintaining the sustainability and security of the U.S. pork supply.

The Swine Disease Reporting System operates as a cooperative effort involving six National Animal Health Laboratory Network-accredited veterinary diagnostic labs and other key industry stakeholders. It effectively collects and monitors diagnostic data for nine infectious agents affecting U.S. swine herds, all while maintaining confidentiality of the farms and individuals involved.

PRRSV, known for causing severe economic and production losses estimated at $664 million annually as of a 2013 study, has seen the emergence of more aggressive strains recently, exacerbating the challenges faced by the industry. The SDRS has detected 133 new PRRSV sequences from 2010 to 2023, primarily in states like Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois, with significant impacts observed in grow-finish pigs.

The system also tracked the spread of an aggressive PRRSV strain, L1C.5, first identified in Minnesota in 2020, which caused substantial disruptions in breeding herds. The recent detection of this strain in South Carolina, a new region for this virus, threatens the large swine breeding inventory in neighboring North Carolina.

The SDRS BLAST Tool has already demonstrated its utility by identifying that the PRRSV sequences from South Carolina closely match those from other distant states, highlighting the tool’s potential for tracking and managing disease spread. The flexibility of the BLAST Tool could also extend to other significant pathogens, such as African Swine Fever (ASF), should the need arise to monitor such diseases in the U.S.

This initiative not only strengthens the response to endemic swine diseases but also prepares the industry for potential transboundary or emerging threats, thereby supporting overall food security and pork production sustainability.