SHIC Diagnostic Fee Assistance Fills a Gap When an Answer Is Needed

SHIC’s diagnostic fee assistance program was developed after porcine circovirus 2 (PCV2), porcine circovirus associated disease (PCVAD), porcine deltacoronavirus (PDCoV), porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), and Senecavirus A (SVA) outbreaks surprised the US pork industry. Controlling surprises requires diligent diagnostic effort; early recognition and characterization of emerging swine disease increases the chance for containment, elimination, or control. Dr. Kent Schwartz, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, shares two examples of how Swine Health Information Center-funded (SHIC-funded) diagnostic fee assistance led to unexpected diagnoses.

In one case, diarrhea in five- to seven-day old pigs where atrophic enteritis was detected, but no etiology was identified, led to a further investigation which revealed the possible role for “a newly discovered virus in swine” called porcine sapovirus (PSaV), which is now being further investigated. In another case, an outbreak of tremors and rapid deaths in grow-finish pigs in which no etiology was identified, upon further investigation, ruled out infectious processes and implicated myopathy, which is now being further investigated. There is risk of missing an emerging disease if a definitive diagnosis is not pursued robustly.

By definition, diagnostic fee assistance is appropriate in cases of high morbidity/high mortality, where an etiology is either not identified or there is a strong supposition the identified pathogen is not the likely cause of the outbreak, and there may be a need for further diagnostic work. SHIC recognizes limitations on resources may be a barrier and developed this program to assist at the production level for the benefit of the national herd – to ensure that something isn’t overlooked.

SHIC diagnostic fee assistance is approved by a panel of swine diagnosticians who have reviewed the case history, along with diagnostic investigation, and judge the outbreak to warrant further investigation. “The process will assure only animals representing the specific case definition are sampled, proper selection and preservation of samples to investigate are collected with confidence in their quality, along with assuring the ability to pursue diagnosis using all appropriate, available technologies,” commented Dr. Schwartz. This can include next-generation sequencing, rapid development of probes, in situ hybridization, RNA scope, EM, etc.

Further diagnostic work can determine if the unknown etiology is a new, emerging, or transboundary disease. Equally as important, further diagnostic work can rule out what it is not, meaning, ruling out known foreign animal disease (FAD) or other agents, according to Dr. Schwartz.

Diagnostic fee assistance is available when the disease appears to be clinically unique in presentation as well as infectious and transmissible. Dr. Schwartz also said it is available in approved cases when routine testing (based on clinical signs, gross lesions, microscopic lesions) has ruled out the differential diagnoses and does not implicate a primary cause.

Details on SHIC’s diagnostic fee assistance program are available here, including a description of the process:

  • As the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, SHIC continues to focus efforts on prevention, preparedness, and response to novel and emerging swine disease for the benefit of US swine health. As a conduit of information and research, SHIC encourages sharing of its publications and research. Forward, reprint, and quote SHIC material freely. SHIC is funded by America’s pork producers to fulfill its mission to protect and enhance the health of the US swine herd. For more information, visit or contact Dr. Sundberg at [email protected].