ANIMAL health companies are partnering with major global universities in order to develop a vaccine for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), with both Merck Animal Health and Zoetis Inc. recently announcing significant projects.
Merck Animal Health announced Feb. 6 that it has entered into a research agreement with Utrecht University in the Netherlands on a PEDV vaccine development project. Research has already begun under the agreement, which will last 12 months.
PEDV causes severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to mortality as high as 100% in young pigs and can cause 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.
New cases of PEDV continue to mount. Since the beginning of December, more than 100 new cases have been reported each week, and PEDV now has spread to swine farms in 23 states and one Canadian province since April 2013, with documented farm cases numbering in the thousands.
"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."
"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," Utrecht professor of virology Dr. Peter Rottier explained. "We share Merck Animal Health's commitment to finding a vaccine and believe that this partnership will help us accelerate the discovery process."
Meanwhile, Zoetis announced Feb. 10 a research partnership with Iowa State University to identify and test a PEDV vaccine candidate.
"Establishing this partnership further affirms our commitment to fighting this devastating virus," said Gloria Basse, vice president of the U.S. Pork Business Unit for Zoetis.
In 2013, Zoetis began a collaboration with the University of Minnesota to develop a diagnostic test for the disease.
While research and development of solutions continue, it's important for producers to remain vigilant with their biosecurity practices to deter the spread of PEDV.
The American Association of Swine Veterinarians has recommended the following biosecurity practices to deter PEDV:
* Label and use chutes for loading and unloading. Use the loading chute only for animals that are leaving the farm. Healthy animals unloaded into the loading chute could be exposed to the virus.
* Wash and disinfect all unloading chutes and driver areas as often as possible. Use a 2% phenol-based disinfectant in the areas where drivers walk to enter the chute, from the point of entry to the top and all areas where the chute comes in contact with the truck.
* Require all trailers used for picking up animals to be cleaned and disinfected before arrival. Be sure to allow enough time for the disinfectant to dry completely before use.
* Provide coveralls and boots for employees to wear while on the farm. These materials should stay on site and be washed routinely.
* If your farm allows guests, provide clear direction for where they should report upon arrival. Also, provide guests with coveralls and boots before they enter any facilities.