DES MOINES, Iowa – At the 2014 World Pork Expo, experts with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI), looked back at 20 years of innovations, collaborative research and information discoveries in efforts to control porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

The disease, once known as the devastating “mystery swine disease” in the 1980s, is no longer the mystery it once was.

Through collaborative research efforts between the industry, academic and producer organizations, both veterinarians and pork producers now have an effective toolbox of products and strategies to manage PRRS.  

Reid Philips, DVM, technical manager for PRRS vaccines with BIVI, outlined on Wednesday some of the key innovations and information discoveries made over the last two decades. For 13 years, the company has funded a dedicated PRRS program.

In particular, the company’s PRRS team has identified five important manageable areas that will have the greatest impact on the disease: pig flow management; measurement and surveillance; immunity management; biosecurity; and communication, coordination and collaboration through area regional control programs.

Reid expanded on this, noting some of the critical discoveries and management strategies:

  1. Herd closure and partial/total depopulation can have a major impact on controlling PRRS infections. “Herd immunity matters,” Reid said.
  2. Further research has given BIVI the opportunity to develop more accurate PCR and ELISA diagnostics to test for PRRS virus through oral fluids, semen, aerosol and the environment. Other surveillance measures include genetic sequencing.
  3. Research has shown vaccination with modified live virus vaccine, such as Ingelvac PRRS MLV , can be effective fighting and controlling the disease.
  4. Immunity alone is not enough to control PPRS. Biosecurity also plays an important role, including truck transportation, filtration and sanitation.
  5. Communication, coordination and collaboration help to combat PRRS through programs such as the Area Regional Control (ARC). “It’s all about educatng and understanding in how to apply the tools of PRRS control,” Reid noted.

“Thanks to all the innovations in diagnostics, vaccines, biosecurity and science-based control programs available today,” Reid explained. “Producers can be much more successful in managing PRRS virus on their farms than they were two decades ago. But there’s still more to do.”

He said, “The key to effective PRRS control today comes down to reducing transmission and improving immunity.”