The Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus has plagued the U.S. since 1987. Infected pigs have trouble reproducing and gaining weight, and they have a high mortality rate. There’s no vaccine, and losses in North America total around $660 million annually.
That all could change after researchers from the University of Missouri, Kansas State University and Genus, plc have successfully bred pigs that aren’t harmed by PRRS.
“Once inside the pigs, PRRS needs some help to spread,” says Randall Prather, Mizzou professor of animal sciences. “It gets that help from a protein called CD163. We were able to breed a litter of pigs that do not produce this protein, and as a result, the virus doesn’t spread. When we exposed the pigs to PRRS, they did not get sick and continued to gain weight normally.”
Researchers hope the discovery will have enormous implications for the food industry and pig producers. The University of Missouri signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Genus, plc, who will seek necessary approvals and registrations from governments if the development stage is successful.
“There are several critical challenges ahead as we develop and commercialize this technology,” says Jonathan Lightner, head of R&D for Genus, plc. “However, the promise is clear, and [we are] committed to developing its potential.”
The researchers’ study will be published in the journal Nature Biotechnology in December 2015.