Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome
costs pig producers an estimated $700 million a year. In Kansas alone, losses
are estimated at $15 million per year.
That's why researchers at Kansas State University have
been collaborating with other universities in the region to resolve PRRS
and other swine diseases
in the nation's pig population.
In recognition of this hard work, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture recently approved a $4.8 million grant to support a comprehensive
national program aimed at controlling the disease. Raymond "Bob" Rowland,
K-State professor and virologist, will lead the PRRS Coordinated Agricultural
Under the project, K-State's experts will collaborate with other
universities, veterinarians, commodity groups, government agencies and swine
producers to get to the bottom of the disease.
K-State has been a player in this initiative since it began in 2004 at
the University of Minnesota.
"Our first step was to lay out a comprehensive road map for the
industry," Rowland said of the national project's progress to date. "All anyone
in the field has to do now is pick a destination and go there."
The mission of the PRRS Coordinated Agricultural Project
is to effectively coordinate efforts aimed at dealing with the disease. That
includes research, education and extension.
PRRS virus is a highly infectious disease that has spread throughout
North America, Europe and Asia. The disease is responsible for causing a
flu-like condition with high fever, loss of appetite and an overall
deterioration of health. In its most severe form, the virus causes "reproductive
storms" which result in the death of pregnant females and of newborn pigs.
"By eliminating PRRS we can have a significant impact on animal health
and welfare and the economic bottom line of producers across the nation and the
world," Rowland said.
The project will support research into
new vaccines against the syndrome, Rowland said, as well as a look into the
disease and how things like pig genetics impact treatment.
Though researchers have come a long
way in the few years since the disease became prevalent in the U.S. pig
population, Rowland said there is also still quite a bit of basic research to be
done on the virus. Researchers who take part in the project, he said, will take
a broader look at the syndrome and try to map out how the virus works, as well
as what effect things like the environment have.
"Overall, we need to gain a better understanding of the virus and
disease processes," he said. "This project is designed to bring together the
scientific resources needed to get the job done."
The scientific findings will then be translated into remedies or
management practices for producers. Once that step is made, the project also
will be responsible for disseminating the latest scientific and practical
The PRRS Coordinated Agricultural Project at K-State will be funded by
the U.S. Department of Agriculture at $1.2 million a year for the next four
years. Participants at Ohio State University, the University of Minnesota and
the National Pork Board are listed as co-directors, and grants from this project
will be funded competitively.