The National Pork Board has awarded a $200,875 grant to a team of researchers to study eradication of the latest strain of porcine circovirus. The research team, headed by Kansas State University's Richard Hesse, director of diagnostic virology, will also include researchers from Iowa State University and South Dakota State University. Hesse, along with other Kansas State researchers, has conducted clinical trials on a vaccine now used by pork producers nationwide to prevent the disease.

Given that expertise, Hesse and fellow researchers will now delve deeper into how the disease affects the immune system of infected pigs. The team will lead a national effort to develop the diagnostic tools to determine what viral strain a pig has been infected with, to tell the difference between antibodies produced in response to natural infection or vaccination, and to determine the best time to vaccinate.
Porcine circovirus attacks a pig's immune system.

Clinical signs of the disease include skin rashes, jaundice, fever, diarrhea, poor growth, weight loss and death, though not all pigs show signs of disease. Hesse says that the circovirus isn't a new phenomenon, but in recent years a new pathogenic strain has made its way south from Canada and there is a lot more to learn about the disease.

"We're going to characterize exactly how the infection impairs immunity," Hesse said. "This research will give producers and veterinarians a keen understanding of what exactly is happening, and the diagnostic tools we develop along the way -- like a test to differentiate between a vaccinated pig and a naturally infected one -- will be critical in the development of the next generation of vaccines against circovirus."

Hesse said this study will arm producers with the information they need to adhere to an effective vaccination program. "Porcine circovirus is a devastating disease for both the animal and the producer," Hesse said. "The management practices used by producers will be critical to the health of the herd. This research will point us in the right direction when it comes to meeting the needs of both the animals and those raising them."

Hesse is the project's principal investigator. He is working closely with Kansas State's Bob Rowland, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, and Carol Wyatt, associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, as well as Eileen Thacker of Iowa State University and Ying Fang of South Dakota State University. The National Pork Board grant will be funded as a yearlong research project.

Source: Kansas State University News Release