Merck Animal Health (known as MSD Animal Health outside the USA and Canada) announced Feb. 6 that it has entered into a research agreement with Utrecht University in the Netherlands to test leads towards a vaccine for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). Research has already begun under the agreement, which will last 12 months.
"We are pleased to partner with Utrecht University on our search for a PEDV vaccine," said Dr. KJ Varma, senior vice president for research and development at Merck Animal Health. "In addition to being one of the world's most prestigious institutions, Utrecht University has decades of experience researching viruses of veterinary significance, and has several leads for the development of a PEDV vaccine."
PEDV causes severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to mortality as high as 100% in young pigs and reduced growth in older pigs. The virus was first identified in Europe in 1971, became endemic in Asia in 1982, and spread to North America in 2013.
"Vaccine development on PEDV has been hampered by the difficulty of growing the virus in cell culture and, until very recently, by the lack of tools for its genetic manipulation," Dr. Peter Rottier, professor in virology at Utrecht University, explained. "We share Merck Animal Health's commitment to finding a vaccine and believe that this partnership will help us accelerate the discovery process."
Until a vaccine is available, Rottier said strict sanitation practices are the first and primary line of defense.