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Farm study raises doubts about new approach to swine-disease control

Sample sizes were small, but eyebrow-raising results from a study on a western Illinois farm have researchers and veterinarians taking a broader look at how swine producers battle an endemic viral disease that adds to their costs and threatens reproduction in their herds.

A new approach (acclimatization) has producers inoculating newly arrived pigs with the wild-type strain of the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRS) already existing on a farm. The hope is that the pigs will develop specific immunity to that virus and will recover prior to breeding, when the disease takes its toll.

The study found that the approach boosted development and strength of immunity against the local strain, but failed where it counted the most. Pigs exposed to the farm's virus produced slightly more live births than pigs vaccinated two other ways, but many of these acclimatized animals never gave birth at all and had to be removed from the herd.

"At first we found it encouraging that animals exposed to the wild-type virus, regardless of whether or not they got a subsequent exposure to vaccine, mounted a faster and stronger immune response to the virus than did animals given the modified live vaccine," said Tony L. Goldberg, a professor in the department of pathobiology in the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

No positive effect on production was seen when compared with the more traditional approach of inoculations with a commercially available modified live vaccine, he added.

"All things considered, exposure to the existing wild-type virus resulted in a net reduction of 2.45 piglets for each sow introduced onto the farm," Goldberg said. "At this point, though, because of small sample size, the most we can say is that the world still lacks an effective method for controlling PRRS virus in herds where the virus is endemic."

The privately owned farm involved in the study had suffered from chronic PR
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Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
jebarlow@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
4-Apr-2006


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