Swine Doc Pod with Carthage: Understanding PRRSv Cross Protection & Immune Stimulation, Episode 23

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Dr. Kim VanderWaal, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota and Dr. Dennis Makau , Post-Doctoral Associate also at the University of Minnesota join us to talk about the knowledge gaps existing for swine producers and veterinarians regarding PRRS genomic classification, cross protection and immune stimulation. Dr. VanderWaal’s research focuses on the dynamics of pathogen spread through animal populations with focus on quantifying the drivers of host and pathogen heterogeneity for disease transmission. Dr. Makau expertise is similarly in epidemiology, focusing on statistical and phylodynamic modeling as well as machine learning techniques to understand the epidemiology of PRRSv. For years veterinarians and producers alike have been baffled by our inability to explain PRRSv cross protection across isolates. We sequence new PRRSv isolates and compare them to other isolates in our collective databases. We use these comparisons to help make informed projections on new PRRSv outbreaks as well as assessments as to whether a new PRRSv isolate has entered a herd. Practicing swine veterinarians throughout the world are often frustrated by our inability to make good assessments with this data. We have situations where the virus is 99% the same as other isolates yet the clinical response is wildly different. We also have situations where the isolates are wildly different, yet the clinical signs and performance impacts suggest that a high level of cross protection exists. Dr. Kim and Dr. Dennis’s current research focus is in using immunologic assays to assess the level of cross protection various PRRSv isolates can provide, then using computer models and machine learning to highlight the commonly held portions of genomes from “unique” isolates that appear to cross protect more or less than their peers. The goal of their research is to better understand which portions of the PRRSv genome are most important in stimulating immunity and to eventually provide a tool to producers to help project cross protection across PRRSv sequence comparisons.