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Meeting of Minds Aims to Beat PRRS

08 April 2008

UK - Scientists, vets and farmers are coming together in a bid to tackle a debilitating virus that has ravaged the pig industry for almost 20 years - PRRS.

A workshop dedicated to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is being funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC. Led by the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, it will bring together scientists and stakeholders to review and promote an interdisciplinary and transnational approach to beating this costly disease.

Breed Effects

A project funded under a BBSRC initiative has made important progress in understanding the genetic influences and breed susceptibility to the PRRS virus. Researchers from the Roslin Institute, University of Cambridge, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency have found that the macrophages of Landrace pigs have a marked reduced response to the virus than other breeds. If the genetic basis of this can be determined it may open up the possibility of breeding in improved immunity to the virus.

The scientists will discuss their findings with colleagues and formulate future strategies at a workshop, which is also supported by the Genesis Faraday Partnership and the Epizone and EADGENE EC networks.

Dr Tahar Ait-Ali, a PRRS researcher at the Roslin Institute, said that the research is showing a way to remove the risk this disease presents to the entire pigmeat production chain disease. And this has significance given the immense difficulties currently being suffered by the UK pig industry from high feed costs and other overheads.

"The workshop will give us the opportunity to bring together scientists, vets and industry representatives to share our ideas and set up collaborations for the future,” he said.

Immune Suppression

PRRS particularly affects microphages in an infected pig’s lungs - the immune system’s frontline defence against pathogens. By suppressing the immune system, PRRS allows persistent infections to become established, leading to respiratory problems, abortion in pregnant sows and the death of piglets. The virus that causes the disease has the ability to rapidly evolve making the development of vaccines and treatments difficult.

Apart from the direct financial losses associated with PRRS infection, the syndrome also contributes to welfare issues for animals and drives up the cost of production and subsequently prices for pork and bacon for consumers.

The virus first emerged around 20 years ago and now costs the US pig industry alone more than US$600M a year. A recent outbreak in China killed over 400,000 animals and led to an 85 per cent increase in pork prices.

Further Reading

       - For more information on PRRS click here.

ThePigSite News Desk



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