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Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) affects suckling piglets. iStockphoto.com.

WCVM faculty part of PEDv research effort

Two Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) faculty members are among three groups of Canadian researchers who received a total of $650,000 to investigate porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv).

PEDv kills young piglets at an astonishing rate with a near 100 per cent mortality rate in suckling pigs. It first appeared in the United States in April 2013, and by January 2014, it appeared in Canada.

Dr. John Harding, a swine health management specialist and associate professor at the WCVM, is a co-investigator on one of the research projects. WCVM professor Dr. Volker Gerdts, who is also associate director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), is co-investigator on a second study.

Since PEDv was first discovered in the U.S., at least eight million pigs have died. So far more than 70 cases have been reported in Canada and it has found its way into Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba.

To deal with this North American outbreak of PEDv, a number of Canadian organizations have pooled financial resources to fund research. The collaborators include Genome Alberta, Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, Genome Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Ontario Genomics Institute and Genome Quebec.

Harding is working with Dr. Soren Alexandersen of the National Centres for Animal Disease in Winnipeg, Man. Their study will investigate genomic and molecular mechanisms associated with PEDv survival in neonatal pigs using samples collected from farm outbreaks in Canada and the U.S. 

Gerdts, along with Dr. Alexander Zakharchouk at VIDO-InterVac, will work to develop a live virus vaccine specifically directed toward sows to protect suckling piglets against disease.

The third study, led by researchers at the Université de Montréal, will investigate the use of new molecules in association with real time-qPCR assays to discriminate infectious from non-infectious (PEDv) particles.

Funding collaborators identified the value of genomics technology in dealing with the PEDv outbreak, launched the request for proposals and assembled an international team of peer reviewers to recommend the projects to be funded.

Read the original Genome Alberta news release
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