September 2017 SHIC eNewsletter

SHIC Studying Tools to Prevent Pathogen Transmission in Feed

The Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) recently funded a study assessing tools for mitigation of Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) and other transboundary pathogens introduction and transmission in feed. Conducted at Kansas State University, the study will meet the urgent need to understand and define the potential role feed plays in the introduction of diseases like African swine fever virus (ASFV), classical swine fever virus (CSFV), and a Chinese strain of pseudorabies virus (PRV). Each is at the top of the prioritized foreign and endemic pathogens on the SHIC Swine Disease Matrix. CSFV and PRV are endemic to China while ASFV is spreading in eastern Europe.

Reviewed by SHIC’s Monitoring and Analysis Working Group and approved by the organization’s Board of Directors, the study will focus on three key objectives.

One strength of the project is that a strong research team has been formed to test the mitigants directly on ASFV, CSFV and a strain of PRV now circulating in China. The team incorporates the expertise of diagnosticians, veterinarians, feed scientists, and swine nutritionists from Kansas State University Colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture, South Dakota State University, and Pipestone Applied Research. The collaboration is also supported by the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI), a unique high biosecurity facility located on the K-State campus with permits to study these viruses.

This project, expected to be completed within 12 months, is an extension of research going on to evaluate the ability of these viruses to survive in imported feed ingredients under their shipping conditions.

SHIC Shares Practitioner’s View on Novel PRRS in Manitoba

Preweaning mortality of 60 percent. Up to 10 percent abortion rate. Triple the rate of mummified fetuses. All of these were reality for swine herds in Manitoba after a novel strain of PRRS broke in October 2016. Consequences continue to be felt while practitioners and stakeholders work to control this outbreak.

Blaine Tully, DVM, is a partner at Swine Health Professionals (SHP), a swine-specific veterinary practice in Steinbach, Manitoba, and president of the Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians. He and the staff at SHP have been engaged in the care of animals affected with a novel strain of PRRS since last fall. This more virulent strain of PRRS has had devastating impacts on affected producers.

One of the farms Dr. Tully specifically deals with is well-managed with good production numbers by Manitoba standards. The owners moved to antibiotic free production recently and have been operating in a PRRS positive but stable status for 10 years. This farm has 700 sows in a farrow-to-finish enterprise. The practice also has a large breed-to-wean farm infected with the new strain of PRRS. Dr. Tully says they have seen the disease impact farrow-to-finish farms as well as those with three site production models.

“By the end of 2016, there were three or four sites infected that we were aware of,” Dr. Tully remarked. “Subsequent to that, more farms have been identified.” The first signs of PRRS infection were increased abortions. “Abortions on some of our farms went from being quite rare to 8 to 10 percent of the sow inventory affected,” he stated. The disease moved very quickly after this discovery with high levels of stillborn pigs.

“Within 10 days, we were seeing preweaning mortality levels doubling and tripling. At the peak for PRRS infected herds, preweaning mortality was close to 60 percent of suckling piglets,” Dr. Tully reported. One on-going and sustained impact of PRRS has been double and triple levels of mummified fetuses.

Dr. Tully said their practice had dealt with PRRS but never with this highly pathogenic version. They had heard about similar breaks in the Midwest U.S. and eastern Canada but this PRRS outbreak has been their first exposure to this level of impact.

“When we had farms break in spring and early summer this year, we were more prepared,” Dr. Tully commented. “We were able to talk to producers to outline what they can expect.” The most recent PRRS break the area’s veterinary community is aware of was in June. He also said they have experienced a relatively large Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) epidemic in Manitoba not long before the PRRS outbreak which resulted in heightened biosecurity, a benefit now as they face PRRS.

Affected farms are now able to go quickly on NSAIDs where possible to control fevers, to benefit lactating and pregnant animals and for keeping sows eating and otherwise productive. “Going into the fall, we’re expecting to see more farms infected despite a somewhat monumental attempt at biosecurity,” Dr. Tully said. “There’s a fairly significant collaboration effort amongst veterinarians. Ours is a four person, swine-only practice. There are at least three other swine practices and companies we know of trying to understand control and elimination strategies.” He says there is currently not a good understanding of how this novel strain of PRRS is moving from site to site or entering facilities.

“What’s been interesting, as we’ve investigated and collaborated with other veterinarians, is to realize we’re convinced it’s not a matter of vaccine or PRRS status with the new strain,” Dr. Tully stated. “The clinical impact is just as significant regardless of vaccine history. We are still in low double-digit numbers of farms. We may see more trends develop as more farms become infected.”

SHIC Working Groups Provide Insight, Experience, and Direction

The Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) expands its reach, resources, and efficacy with input from two Working Groups. Members’ efforts are changing swine disease detection, prevention, and preparedness for the better. The Preparedness and Response Working Group paved the way for development and validation of antibody detection assays using sera and oral fluids to distinguish cases of African Swine Fever virus (ASFV), classical swine fever virus (CSFV), and Food and Mouth Disease (FMD). The Monitoring and Analysis Working Group is making a near real-time global swine disease monitoring system a possibility. These are two examples of meaningful projects with more constantly progressing.

The volunteers serving on these groups are a who’s who of the pork industry. Highly regarded veterinary practitioners, researchers, veterinary diagnosticians, state and federal animal health officials, industry organization representatives, and pork producers all collaborate to achieve SHIC’s mission. Each Working Group meets via conference call, in response to needs of the industry.

The two Working Groups are Monitoring and Analysis as well as Preparedness and Response. Find a list of members of both Working Groups here.

“It is for the industry. It is about the industry. It has to be actionable in the industry,” remarked Steve Henry, DVM, Abilene Animal Hospital of Abilene, Kansas. “Hopefully that’s what the Working Groups bring to the table – a basis in reality.” Dr. Henry is a member of the Monitoring and Analysis Working Group.

The design for the Working Groups allows SHIC to be nimble, responsive, and free from typical research cycles and scheduling. The Groups are able to move quickly using conference calls collaborate, address disease issues, and achieve their goals. Members of both Working Groups volunteer their time and expertise willingly.

“SHIC was commissioned to try to understand better than we ever have before what the risks are, how pathogens enter our country and industry, but also how they change over time,” stated Joe Connor, DVM, Carthage Veterinary Clinic, Carthage, Illinois. Dr. Connor is also a member of the Monitoring and Analysis Working Group.

“To be involved in the Working Groups is a keen interest of mine, as is to be involved in disease elimination,” Dr. Connor explained. “Part of the long-term activity of these Working Groups has to be continuing to understand how we can move information quickly so we can make interventions. You would hope, in time, this group would be recognized not only as an information center, but also as a buffer as decisions are made, encouraging practicality with some other ramifications.”

Monitoring and Analysis Working Group Responsibilities

Preparedness and Response Working Group Responsibilities



Dr. Henry sees the success of SHIC and its Working Groups benefitting the entire industry. “What SHIC has done is put a corral fence around a whole pool of resources and information,” he explained. “It simplified for everybody the ability to really drill down if they want to.” Dr. Henry is proud of all who volunteer their time for the effort. “Nobody is going to get medals for talking about future disasters but will be appreciated in the long run for the value of the conversation,” he commented. “All the effort of the Working Groups, Board, and everyone else involved have justified the investment in SHIC.”

SHIC Funds Near Real-Time Global Swine Disease Monitoring System

The Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) has funded a near real-time monitoring system for swine diseases around the world. Reviewed by SHIC’s Monitoring and Analysis Working Group, the system will include identification of potential hazards due to new diseases or changes in current diseases’ status, screening steps to evaluate the information collected, and informing the U.S. pork industry through regular, timely reporting.

This project, being developed at the University of Minnesota, will use a private-public-academic partnership to develop the system. The University of Minnesota and USDA/APHIS Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health will be collaborating on the project.

The U.S. swine industry is free of several swine diseases existing in other countries while having other diseases in common. “Having a systematic way to monitor new or emerging diseases around the globe will help keep the U.S. pork industry informed of risks. Knowing the changes in risks will spur thinking about how to mitigate them,” remarked Dr. Paul Sundberg, SHIC Executive Director.

Multiple sources of information may contribute to the development of a near real-time global monitoring system for swine diseases. Sources of information may be classified as soft or unofficial (rumors or data that may or may not have been corroborated) and hard or official (confirmed by national or international agencies).

On a regular basis, data will be evaluated by a group of swine health experts, including collaboration with the USDA/APHIS Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health, and a report generated. The summary will include interpretation from the experts that add their impression about the event; does it sound accurate, should I care about this, why or why not. Follow-ups with local contacts will also be done, when possible. The information will be graded to reflect a consensus of risk to the U.S. pork industry and the report will be released. The system is expected to be operational early in 2018.

SHIC Works to Validate Methods to Monitor Feed for Swine Pathogens

The Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) recently funded a study to be conducted by Kansas State University researchers to investigate using dust samples to monitor for swine pathogens in US feed mills. There is potential for the findings to lead to development of a diagnostic laboratory panel of assays where a single submitted swab of feed mill dust could be analyzed for multiple feed-based bacteria and viruses – a low-cost tool that could be used to help address feed safety.

This research will use Senecavirus A (SVA) to validate detection techniques. Transmission of SVA needs more research, including if feed plays a role, but this project will offer a look into prevalence and high-risk locations for SVA entry into the feed system, adding another piece of information about the virus. At the same time, this research could possibly lead to development of centralized protocols for dust sampling that can be a convenient and cost-effective surveillance tool for feed-based pathogens.

While the implications for the US industry are clear, researchers are equally as interested in the outcomes in a broader application. These same tools and strategies can be employed to minimize the risk of Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) entry into feed mills – including for other viruses such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).