Solving Swine Diseases

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome,
or PRRS, costs U.S. pork producers money and pigs every year. Overall, in the United States
PRRS costs us 642 million a year and if you take into account veterinary costs, it’s one
billion a year in the U.S. alone. For young pigs being sick means respiratory problems
and loss of growth, so it’s a major issue in terms of production. In the adult sow,
if she gets PRRS when she’s pregnant, she can lose her litter, and/or her litter becomes
sick and some pigs die in utero or are very unthrifty when they’re born.
To alleviate this situation Doctor Lunney and her colleagues in Beltsville, Maryland,
just outside of Washington D.C., have discovered a genetic marker that shows which pigs are
resistant to the effects of PRRS. We’ve been able to show that there is a region on swine
chromosome four that is associated with decreased viral levels and increased growth. So, this
is really important because it means that we can help farmers now to decrease the effect
of PRRS in their herds. With this knowledge producers and animal breeders could introduce
PRRS tolerant swine into their herds thereby reducing the effects of the virus.
They would be buying pigs that are resistant, but not completely resistant to PRRS, but
this is not a situation where we have zero PRRS. It is a fifteen percent decrease in
PRRS and an eleven percent increase in growth traits. Lunney and colleagues are now trying
to find the exact gene that leads to PRRS tolerance in hopes of developing a vaccine
and treatment. In Beltsville, Maryland for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I’m Bob

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