New test detects PEDV antibodies

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Veterinary researchers at Iowa State University have developed a new test to detect antibodies against Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV), a disease in pigs that was confirmed in the United States earlier this year.

Previously, the virus could be detected only in acute cases while it was still reproducing and infecting a host pig. In such cases, the virus could be identified through the use of a test known as a polymerase chain reaction assay. But those tests could give a false negative if the pig had stopped shedding the disease or if shedding had become intermittent. 

The new test, called an immunofluorescence antibody or indirect fluorescent antibody assay is conducted using blood samples from pigs. It will allow veterinarians and producers to know if a pig has ever had the disease in the past, whether it is shedding the virus or not. It’s the first test available to the U.S. veterinary community that can detect PEDV antibodies.

“The new test gives practitioners and their clients a historical perspective,” says Dr. John Johnson, a clinician in veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine. “It will help them to understand if a particular animal has been exposed to the virus before. This tool, coupled with polymerase chain reaction results, will provide additional crucial information as veterinarians and their clientele assess the risk of moving a group of animals into a PEDV-negative population.”

Dr. Kyoung-Jin Yoon, a professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine, led the effort in developing the new test. The screening works by detecting the presence of PEDV antibodies in a blood sample. If the antibodies are present, then the pig in question has been exposed to the virus before, explains Yoon.

The screening, available through the ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, costs $5.50 per sample and can be requested by local veterinarians.

“In order for this test to function, we must first have an isolated virus on hand,” Yoon says. “For a long time, it has been difficult to isolate the virus in a cell culture, so there are a lot of tricks and manipulation we have to do to make this virus propagate in cell culture.”

The test will be especially helpful to pork producers who are looking for replacement breeding stock. By performing the test, producers can know if an animal has been exposed to the virus before they bring it onto their farms.

The Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory identified the first U.S. cases of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus in early May. Since then, the diagnostic laboratory has helped to confirm cases of the disease in 17 states, including Iowa.

Diagnosticians and clinicians in the ISU Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine and the Iowa Pork Industry Center are working closely with producers and veterinarians from throughout the country. They are determining best practices to diagnose the disease in other herds, minimize its impact and prevent its spread to uninfected herds.

“This is a new disease to the U.S., and when that happens, we have to either develop new tests or try to find what’s available from other parts of the world,” says Yoon. “We’ve seen great collaboration between faculty, technical staff and graduate students at Iowa State to help with our response to this virus.”



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