Iowa State University

Gary Osweiler, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, (515) 294-1950
Patrick Halbur, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, (515) 294-1950
Prem Paul, Veterinary Medicine, (515) 294-0913
Steve Jones, News Service, (515) 294-4778


AMES, Iowa -- A severe form of a swine disease that's been causing reproductive and respiratory problems since the late 1980s is believed to be the virus that's affecting sows and their offspring in Iowa and other states.

Patrick Halbur, a pathologist at Iowa State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, said the disease is thought to be porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), a major cause of pneumonia in swine. "However, we want to be certain by confirming the disease in the laboratory," Halbur said.

PRRS decreases growth and reproductive efficiency and can lead to death. "In the last six months the effects of the disease have become more acute," Halbur said.

"We have noticed an increasing trend in the number of reported PRRS cases since we first identified it in the late 1980s," said Gary Osweiler, director of ISU's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. "Only in recent months have we seen the effects of PRRS become more severe."

ISU researchers are working with U.S. Department of Agriculture experts to determine how producers, veterinarians and the pork industry can reduce the effects of the disease. A USDA review team visited several Iowa farms last week investigating the disease. ISU and USDA staff will continue collaborative efforts toward possible solutions, said Prem Paul, associate dean for research at ISU's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"The College of Veterinary Medicine appreciates the continued support of the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association and their membership in coordinating the collection of samples and continuing efforts to work together to control this disease," Paul said.

ISU's College of Veterinary Medicine has been one of the leaders in PRRS research, Paul said. He added that the college is well recognized for its efforts in understanding the disease and developing tools to control the spread and effects of the problem.

Since the more severe form of the disease was first reported, ISU, in collaboration with USDA and other scientists, has been searching for tools to control the disease. "With a grant from the Iowa Livestock Health Advisory Council, we began studying some Iowa farms where the most severe cases were prevalent," Paul said.

To date, more than $1 million in grants to ISU have been targeted to stopping the virus. Paul said more than 15 veterinary medicine faculty members, post-doctoral researchers and graduate students are researching possible solutions to the disease.


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