Scottish swine industry aims to eliminate PRRS

What’s the best way to fight porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS)? Well, tough biosecurity controls are always essential, but Scotland has set forth towards an ambitious goal: eradicate it.

Since 1992, when PRRS was first discovered in Scotland, the disease has gone on to affect 40% of the nation’s swine herds. The Press and Journal says the estimated cost is about $52,000 (£40,000) annually for a 500-sow herd.

“As pigs with PRRS are affected by secondary infections, eliminating the virus would help reduce antimicrobial use in pigs and could also reduce abattoir condemnations due to chronic health issues such as pleurisy,” Quality Meat Scotland chairman and veterinarian Grace Webster said.

To that end, swine producers, veterinarians and other industry members have hammered down on a cohesive strategy for combating the virus with the intent of eliminating it from Scotland altogether over the next three to five years. The plan starts with mapping positive test results for the disease, based on data collected over the past 18 months.

“The next key steps towards control and elimination need to be coordinated within a region, to prevent neighbors re-infecting each other,” said Webster. Data has given the industry a region to start with: the Moray coast, an inlet in the north of Scotland. There are few positive test results for the region.

“Viral isolates from Scottish farms that have had their DNA sequenced are already seeing a diversity from region to region, so eliminating the virus quickly will hopefully protect the Scottish herd against the development of highly pathogenic strains.”

Scotland also made PRRS news last year when the University of Edinburgh announced that researchers had edited the genes of pigs to make PRRS-resistant animals.

About PRRS

As the name implies, PRRS wreaks havoc on the reproductive and respiratory systems of pigs. It can induce abortions in pregnant sows, cause stillbirths and lead to infertility. It can cause respiratory problems, as well as increased mortality in younger pigs.

Because it weakens the immune system of infected animals, animals infected with the PRRS virus are likely to become sick from other causes as well, driving up costs and use of antibiotics. It’s endemic to most major swine-producing regions of the world, and is one of the most economically significant diseases to impact the global pork industry.

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