Weekly Overview: Researchers Find Virus Responsible for 'Shaking Piglets'

GLOBAL - Researchers at the University Clinic for Swine, the Institute of Virology, and the Institute of Pathology and Forensic Veterinary Medicine at Vetmeduni Vienna in Austria have made a breakthrough in understanding the cause of 'shaking' in newborn piglets.
calendar icon 16 January 2017
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An unknown virus was suspected as being the cause of cases of 'shaking piglets', which have been reported since the 1920's, but without conclusive confirmation.

The researchers have now, however, been able to identify a new virus as the cause of this potentially life-threatening disease. The pathogen, which belongs to the so-called atypical porcine pestiviruses (APPV), was detected in diseased animals at Austrian farms using a specially developed test.

The pestiviruses had been considered a possible causative agent, along with other viral pathogens, but the established tests had so far remained without success.

"It was the characterization of the atypical pestiviruses that first brought us on the right track," said virologist Benjamin Lamp. On the basis of the sequence data, it was possible to identify a further strain of these viruses and so develop a new test. Detection is now possible using the usual molecular methods such as polymerase chain reaction.

The detection procedure not only confirmed the presence of the virus in high numbers in the diseased piglets; the team was also able to detect the pathogen in the saliva and semen of mature pigs.

In other news, scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, UK, have created male pigs that could be used as surrogates capable of producing sperm that contains the genetic blueprint of sought-after pigs.

Stem cells from male pigs with desirable characteristics, such as greater resilience to disease, could be transplanted into the surrogates to produce limitless supplies of their valuable sperm.

The surrogates have functional testes but do not have specialised stem cells that are required to produce sperm containing their own genetic information, the researchers said.

Professor Bruce Whitelaw, Head of Developmental Biology at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, said: “This could dramatically improve the production efficiency and quality of farmed pigs, as well as enhancing other desirable traits such as disease resilience in production animals.”

In disease news, more African Swine Fever outbreaks have been reported in Ukraine, including a new outbreak in Lugansk, in the east of the country.

In total, four more outbreaks have been confirmed on four farms across the country leading to 139 cases.

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