Swine feed can carry PED virus, U.S. study confirms

Aug 18, 2014

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By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com

A new study conducted in the United States proves that the deadly (pig-killing) virus known as – porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) – can be spread through livestock feed.

Pork producers in the U.S. have been dealing with the spread of PED since April 2013, which has infected thousands of pig farms, spanning 30 states. The virus has killed an estimated 8 million pigs, or about 10 percent of the U.S. swine herd.

The virus is known to spread through pig manure (the main vector), but other forms of transmission including animal feed were just speculation, until now. Researchers at South Dakota State University conducted a study that was recently published in the peer-reviewed BMC Veterinary Research Journal, which confirmed the correlation between swine feed and PED.   

Feed samples were collected at three farms - one in northwest Iowa and two in southwest Minnesota, where PED was found. Tests were then conducted at the university, where five piglets were given what was believed to be infected feed – all five animals became ill.  Another group of piglets was given a placebo and were not infected with PED. It should be noted that the study did not examine how the feed became infected with the virus.

The lead author of the study, Scott Dee, Director of Research for Pipestone Veterinary Clinic in Minnesota, said that while livestock feed has always been thought to be a risk factor, not one has been able to verify it until now.  Dee hopes that the study will encourage more collaboration between the swine, feed and veterinary industries to mitigate the spread of the virus.

According to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, which is tasked with tracking the spread of the disease, during the month of August 2014 there were almost 8,000 positive cases of the virus found. Iowa, the nation’s largest pork producer has had the most outbreaks of PED.

The virus causes diarrhea, vomiting and diffraction in all ages of pigs. The disease is almost 100 percent fatal for piglets, while older pigs typically recover from the illness. PED poses no risk to humans or other animals.

Meanwhile in Canada, the feed connection to the virus was confirmed in February 2014. Shortly after PED was detected in the U.S., Canada had its first case of the virus being identified on January 22, 2014, on an Ontario hog farm in Middlesex County. The virus has since spread to numerous farms in several provinces.

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