Optimistic Outlook Despite PEDv
Since last spring, PEDv has wiped out an estimated 5 million pigs in 27 states. Despite the devastation of the disease, the hog industry outlook is still optimistic for four reasons: A cure is in sight, there is the potential for record-high industry revenue, warm weather slows the virus, and demand is steady.
A cure is in sight
Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) is a swine virus that is fatal to almost 100% of infected piglets less than 2 weeks old. Luckily, PEDv isn’t an airborne threat, but that doesn’t mean it can’t spread easily. A small amount of manure can infect an entire facility.
The only vaccine available for PEDv comes from Harrisvaccines in Ames, Iowa. To date, the company has shipped 1.4 million doses of vaccine to producers. The company released the first generation of the vaccine in August, following the first recorded PEDv outbreak in April. The second generation, called iPED+, came out in January 2014. The vaccine is given to sows close to farrowing, which passes the antibodies on to the piglets.
Harrisvaccines was the first to the market with a solution because of technology that allows the company to speed up the vaccine process. The traditional vaccine approach is to grow the virus in the lab and then modify it, which takes more time with difficult viruses like PEDv. Instead of the traditional method of vaccine manufacturing, Harrisvaccines uses a technology originally developed for the U.S. military’s anti-terrorism efforts, which uses a gene-sequence from the virus to make a vaccine. In about six weeks, the company can take a gene sequence from the virus, in this case the spike gene, synthesize it, and change it to fight the virus. This is what they did to create the first generation.
“We were confident that the first-generation vaccine produced antibodies that would have some effect on the virus,” says Joel Harris, Harrisvaccines. The initial results from this vaccine showed that it was effective in preventing the virus in some but not all instances, so Harrisvaccines continued to refine the treatment.
The second-generation vaccine achieves more consistent levels of antibodies. “Initial reports are positive,” says Harris. “This is a safe and effective tool when it’s used correctly.” Harrisvaccines is working on acquiring a USDA license to make the vaccine more readily available. At this time, producers can get the vaccine with a prescription from their veterinarian.
Harrisvaccines will continue to work on the vaccine as the virus adapts. “There isn’t just one PED virus,” explains Harris. “There are variant strains that are 5% different than the initial virus.” It will take continued research to see if the current generation will protect against the new strains.
Besides the vaccine, producers should focus on prevention efforts and biosecurity. “No vaccine is 100% effective,” adds Harris. “Following the other prevention measures is very important.”