Field-based device helps prevent infectious swine disease spread

Novel diagnostic tool to help tackle viruses causing epidemics in pig farms.

May 27, 2020

3 Min Read
Field-based device helps prevent infectious swine disease spread

The impact of swine diseases and other livestock disease outbreaks extends beyond animal sickness and mortality in a highly interconnected world, causing major problems. Following an initial disease outbreak, laboratory confirmation of the etiologic infectious agent can take several weeks or even months, according to information posted on the European Commission's CORDIS website. Hence, the development of rapid and accurate diagnostic methods is crucial for achieving effective infectious disease control and limiting severe biophysical and socioeconomic effects.

The European Union-funded Swinostics (Swine diseases field diagnostics toolbox) project has been addressing this challenge and building a portable diagnostic device to detect swine viral diseases in just a few minutes, CORDIS said.

The tool is focused on six viruses: African swine fever virus, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, the H1N1 strain of swine influenza virus, porcine parvovirus, porcine circovirus and classical swine fever virus.

“The device will use swine oral fluid samples as its main input, even though it will be compatible with the use of other types of samples, such as feces, blood or nasal swabs,” Swinostics noted on its project website. “The use of oral fluids as the main input diminishes the time needed for the analysis and simplifies the sample collection, allowing also the collection of wild boar samples.”

The diagnostic device developed by Swinostics partners uses advanced biosensing and photonics technologies to tackle emerging and endemic viruses causing epidemics in pig farms in Europe. It will enable “immediate threat assessment at the farm level, with the analytical quality of commercial and institutional laboratories,” Swinostics said. “The device will be portable and will provide results in less than 15 minutes for four to five samples simultaneously, making it highly suitable for use in the field. The modular construction of the device would allow future upgrades to increase capacity if so desired.”

More than two years into the field diagnostics project targeting the swine industry, the Swinostics team reported that it has completed the first integration testing phase. “The scope of this has been to verify that all device modules operate flawlessly in combination with each other and to fix various issues that could affect overall device functionality.”

Various modules

Swinostics explained that the prototype's modules include the sample delivery and liquids handling module that involves transferring the sample and other liquids over the sensors and, finally, to the waste tank, the main processing and communications module that controls the entire operation, the optical analysis module that reads the sensors’ output, as well as the temperature conditioning module that keeps the temperature constant in critical parts of the device.

“An Android application has also been developed for controlling the entire device operation through a tablet or mobile phone. This is actually the main user interface to the device,” the group said. “The upgraded version of all device modules, using the feedback from the first integration testing phase, is currently in progress. The upgraded modules will be used for further testing and full laboratory-scale validation of the device, using reference samples, before moving to the field.”

The Swinostics project will end in April 2021. By facilitating early diagnosis during infectious disease outbreaks, it will help speed up the decision-making process and prevent further spread of epidemics in swine farms, CORDIS noted. More information is on the SWINOSTICS project website.

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