USDA's Agricultural Research Service scientists have discovered a hormone that may act as a livestock disease marker. They say this hormone could make it easier to eliminate some contamination during meat processing, ultimately saving producers money.

"Increases in the hormone adrenemedullin appear to be associated with some forms of infection in pigs, cattle, goats and sheep," according to Theodore Elsasser, ARS research animal specialist.

Adrenemedullin is a naturally occurring amino- acid-peptide hormone produced in many tissues, including adrenal medulla, lung, kidney and heart. During ARS testing, researchers found that calves harboring internal parasites had more adrenemedullin in their pancreatic tissue and blood than healthy calves. Therefore, producers may be able to use a test based on higher adrenemedullin levels as a screening marker for disease stress.

With more testing, ARS scientists also say that monitoring adrenemedullin levels may give livestock producers the chance to help sick animals recover from illness and make them safer for processing, benefiting both the producer and consumer.

Adrenemedullin detection is still in the testing stage with no definite indication of a timeline for further test results.