Delegates to the Society for Applied Microbiology’s annual Summer Conference, taking place this week in Brighton, have heard how veterinary laboratories in Europe are working together to implement reliable diagnostic tests that ensure preparedness for the potential emergence of PED virus in Europe.
Professor Wim van der Poel of Wageningen University in The Netherlands said PEDv was a serious epidemic of disease that affecting animal welfare as well as jeopardising the livelihoods of farmers and driving up the price of pork for the consumer.
“To halt an epidemic like this, we have to respond very rapidly to new outbreaks of disease and for that we need fast and reliable diagnostic tests,” he said.
Professor van der Poel and the team at the Central Veterinary Institute of Wageningen University use a combination of classical microbiology and new techniques such as microarray, PCR, next generation sequencing and bioinformatics to develop new approaches to detect, identify, and characterize microbes that are responsible for new and emerging infectious disease outbreaks.
In the case of PED, it’s not a new microbe. The virus has been circulating in Europe since the early 1980s, and now a variant of this virus is circulating in the US, Canada and China. For rapid diagnostic response in case of a potential introduction of this virus to Europe, five veterinary laboratories united in the CoVetLab group – Anses in France; CVI in The Netherlands; DTU in Denmark; SVA in Sweden; and the AHVLA in the UK – have started a project for the development, validation and implementation of a PCR assay to detect PED virus, and immunoassays to detect antibodies against PED virus in the blood of infected pigs. The idea is that laboratories in Europe will be able to run these as soon as possible, to rapidly identify the cause of any outbreak of diarrhoea in pigs.
“Being able to rapidly diagnose an outbreak puts us in a much more powerful position,” Professor van der Poel said. “There are many causes of diarrhoea, so first we have to confirm that it is in fact the PED virus, and then appropriate action can be taken, including the implementation of strict biosecurity on the affected farm.
“We may also need to put more effort in developing an efficacious vaccine to protect younger animals born in future.”