Science Page: An Overview of Porcine Astrovirus

This is our Friday rubric: every week a new Science Page from the Bob Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project. The previous editions of the science page are available on our website.

This week, we are sharing a disease sheet on porcine astrovirus by Drs. Arruda and Schwartz.

Key points:

  • Further research is needed in all areas of the virus in order to better understand, treat, and prevent Astrovirus.
  • Astrovirus is a public health concern in humans as it is implicated in foodborne illnesses and has zoonotic potential.
  • Porcine Astrovirus may play a role in enteric disease, and has been associated with neurological disease.

Porcine Astrovirus (PoAstV)  is a nonenveloped RNA virus with 5 different strains present in U.S herds. It has been detected in both healthy and diseased pigs, so more research is needed to determine the clinical implications of a PoAstV infection. Recently a U.S swine production system reported PoAstV-associated neurological disease. In the sow farm 100% of pigs affected with disease died, while in the growing-finishing farms case-mortality rate was 75%. Signs exhibited by affected animals included paralysis, ataxia, paresis, and knuckling, which eventually progressed into lateral recumbency.

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Scientific publications relating to Porcine Astrovirus are rare. The majority of information, however, supports fecal-oral as the main route of transmission. Some reports have shown PoAstV to retain infectivity in ground water for extended periods of time and can survive up to 3 hours in water with a p.H of 4.0. There is currently no vaccine available for this disease. The large antigenic diversity and high mutation rate are the biggest challenge for vaccine development. Diagnosis is typically made via PCR.

The major concern with Astrovirus is the zoonotic potential. Human Astrovirus is easily transmitted through contaminated food and water and causes moderate gastroenteritis in infants. Human-to-pig transmission is suspected due to the detection of human-porcine recombinant viruses. Pig-to-human zoonosis has not been reported, but Astroviruses can rapidly mutate, so it may be only a matter of time before a zoonotic strain emerges.

Further research into pathogenesis and vaccine development is crucial to prepare for a possible zoonotic outbreak. 

— Blog post written by Joseph Thurston.

Time-series analysis for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome in the United States

Today, we are sharing an open-access publication from Dr. Andreia Arruda, Dr. Ana Alba and members of the MSHMP team in the journal PlosOne.

This study was conducted using data collected from the Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project. The main objective of this study was to use time-series analysis to investigate whether yearly patterns commonly described for PRRS were in fact conserved across different U.S. states.

Methods

The 268 breeding herds enrolled in this project were the ones that participated in the MSHMP from July 2009 to October 2016. PPRS status of each farm was reported weekly following the AASV guidelines. The five states examined included Minnesota (MN), Iowa (IA), North Carolina (NC), Nebraska (NE), and Illinois (IL).

Results

81 MN farms, 72 IA, 45 NC, 30 NE, 40 from IL, were enrolled in the study with a mean number of animals per site of 2,666; 3,543; 2,342; 4,041; and 4,018 respectively.

journal.pone.0195282.g002
Graphs showing the prevalence (black line) and upper and lower 95% confidence intervals (grey dotted lines) of PRRS virus positive farms for the five different U.S. states participating in this study: A: Minnesota; B: Iowa; C: Nebraska, D: North Carolina and E: Illinois

The main finding of this study was that PRRS seasonality varies according to geographical region, and the commonly referred “PRRS season” is not necessarily the only time of increase in disease incidence.

Another interesting finding from this study was the presence of an alternating trend for all examined states within of the U.S., except for the state of Iowa, the largest pork producing states in the country (approximately 31.4% of the total US hog and pig inventory), which had an increasing linear trend over the examined years.

In conclusion, PRRS seasonal patterns are not homogeneous across the U.S., with some important pork producing states having biannual PRRS peaks instead of the previously reported winter peak. Findings from this study highlight the importance of coordinating alternative control strategies in different regions considering the prevailing epidemiological patterns, and the need to reinforce strict biosecurity practices beyond the typically described “PRRS season”.

You can also listen to Dr. Arruda present some of these research findings at the 2017 Leman conference.

Abstract

Industry-driven voluntary disease control programs for swine diseases emerged in North America in the early 2000’s, and, since then, those programs have been used for monitoring diseases of economic importance to swine producers. One example of such initiatives is Dr. Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project, a nation-wide monitoring program for swine diseases including the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). PRRS has been extensively reported as a seasonal disease in the U.S., with predictable peaks that start in fall and are extended through the winter season. However, formal time series analysis stratified by geographic region has never been conducted for this important disease across the U.S. The main objective of this study was to use approximately seven years of PRRS incidence data in breeding swine herds to conduct time-series analysis in order to describe the temporal patterns of PRRS outbreaks at the farm level for five major swine-producing states across the U.S. including the states of Minnesota, Iowa, North Carolina, Nebraska and Illinois. Data was aggregated retrospectively at the week level for the number of herds containing animals actively shedding PRRS virus. Basic descriptive statistics were conducted followed by autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) modelling, conducted separately for each of the above-mentioned states. Results showed that there was a difference in the nature of PRRS seasonality among states. Of note, when comparing states, the typical seasonal pattern previously described for PRRS could only be detected for farms located in the states of Minnesota, North Carolina and Nebraska. For the other two states, seasonal peaks every six months were detected within a year. In conclusion, we showed that epidemic patterns are not homogeneous across the U.S, with major peaks of disease occurring through the year. These findings highlight the importance of coordinating alternative control strategies in different regions considering the prevailing epidemiological patterns.

NHF: PRRS is also a summer disease

Our latest collaboration with the National Hog Farmer was written by the Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Program team regarding the incidence of PRRS in the summer.

Although our understanding of disease and control methods has improved in recent years, we continue to learn new features of PRRSV epidemiology in part thanks to the Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project. One of the most recent questions that we have addressed based on enquires from MSHMP participants is whether PRRS incidence during the summer was higher in recent years (i.e. 2016-17) compared to previous years (i.e. 2009-15). We know that PRRSV outbreaks tend to have a seasonal pattern and that they are more frequent during the fall and winter, but we know little about the breaks that happen in the summer and spring.

In order to dig into this question, we analyzed MSHMP data from 2009 to 2017 which included 1,329 outbreaks. Of these, 66% of the breaks occurred during fall and winter and 14% and 20% of the breaks occurred during summer and spring, respectively. Although there were fewer breaks in the spring and summer, the number of breaks in warmer seasons was still significant which represents an on-going frustration to producers because the “PRRSV season” is supposed to be over.

As part of the analysis we learned that between 3% and 6% of the herds break yearly during the summer and spring seasons, respectively. This represents approximately 83 herds out of the 917 reporting in the MSHMP database. If we estimate that the average sow farm has 3,000 sows, then almost a quarter of a million sows break yearly during these two seasons.

Remember, although the risk of PRRSV introduction is lower during the spring and summer, PRRSV breaks still happen, so biosecurity efforts should not be decreased. PRRSV is a sneaky virus so keep your biosecurity up, even in the summer.

All of our collaborations with the National Hog Farmer can be found here.

Science Page: Incidence Year 2017/2018 Annual Summary

This is our Friday rubric: every week a new Science Page from the Bob Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project. The previous editions of the science page are available on our website.

This week, Dr. Cesar Corzo is giving us a summary of the 2017/2018 year.

Objective 1 – Disease incidence and monitoring

PRRS – Unfortunately 31% of the herds in the project broke with PRRS making it the third highest incidence in the MSHMP history. The epidemic initiated at the same time of the year following previous years’ pattern. As with previous years, we continue to see viral introduction into 1) status 4 breeding herds in low dense regions and 2) filtered sow herds reminding us that there continues to be unanswered questions from a transmission standpoint.

PEDv – The year ended at 8% (1% increase compared to the previous year) with a series of outbreaks occurring in 12 farms that had never been exposed to PEDv.

PDCoV – Even though we have not been including a graph we continue to monitor for this virus. There has been minimal activity.

SVV – Incidence of this virus remained low and did not follow the seasonal pattern seen in the previous 2 years.

Atypical CNS Cases – These viruses continue to be found in specific cases with no apparent trend.

Objective 2 – Prospective monitoring of PRRSv

PRRSv sequences continue to be collected building a library for MSHMP participant use. We have used this approach a few times while outbreak investigations have been conducted. We are currently conducting monitoring in a three-company based region detecting newly emerged viruses. On the other hand, the database is being analyzed in a way that provides epidemiological sense. We will report more on this in an upcoming report.

Objective 3 – Develop capacity to capture and analyze movement data

We have been able to generate a process to record movement data (i.e. starting and ending location,speed, trip duration) together with a visualization package in Google Earth. Although we have proved the concept we have faced technology challenges during the development phase and we are currently revisiting our approach.

Objective 4 – To expand participation of producers to allow all to be involved

Expansion continues with existing participants adding more farms. There have been other production systems that have either signed the
enrollment forms and are in the process of submitting their data or other production companies that have verbally agreed to join.

Science Page: Sow Herd Filter Study

This is our Friday rubric: every week a new Science Page from the Bob Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project. The previous editions of the science page are available on our website.

This week,  we are sharing a note from Dr. Cesar Corzo who is starting a study on sow herd filtration and recruiting herds. The MSHMP mission goes beyond collecting data regarding swine herd disease status, it also includes research projects that are relevant to the swine community.

Objectives of the study

The objectives of the study are to describe the occurrence of PRRSv in the filtered sow herd population within MSHMP and to assess the associations between farm-level factors and the introduction of PRRSv into filtered sow herds. The results of the study may guide practitioners and veterinarians to modify their management and biosecurity practices in filtered sow herds.

Who can enroll?

All filtered sow herds of MSHMP participants will be eligible for the study. The database will be used together with the PRRSv incidence measure to understand occurrence of PRRS before and after filters were installed. A survey has been created to collect farm specific data such as:

  • Date when herd was filtered
  • Type of ventilation (negative or positive)
  • Back draft prevention methodology
  • Type of pre-filter and filter
  • Pre-filter and filter replacement frequency
  • Number of barns and load outs
  • Audit frequency
  • Frequency of gilt introduction and weaning events
  • Regional density

If you are interested in participating, please contact Dr. Cesar Corzo at corzo(at)umn.edu

Science Page: Assessment of PRRS area spread for sow herd outbreaks in US swine dense regions

This is our Friday rubric: every week a new Science Page from the Bob Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project. The previous editions of the science page are available on our website.

This week, we are sharing a project from Dr. Andreia Arruda in collaboration with the MSHMP team regarding Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus (PRRSV) area spread for sow herd outbreaks in US swine dense regions.

Dr. Arruda has also been investigating PRRS seasonality in the US and how topography surrounding a farm influences outbreak risk.

Key points

  • Strong evidence of area spread was not found after evaluating three farm clusters located in two swine dense regions.
  • All barns of a nursery/finishing site should be sampled to define status.
  • Sick pen might not be the best target when sampling for PRRSV in grower pig sites

Background and Objectives

Area spread refers to the transmission of a pathogen (here PRRSV) through small particles in the air as well as through fomites on which the pathogen would have deposited on.

The objective of the study was to determine if the virus detected in a recently infected sow farm was similar to the one detected in neighboring farms (in other words: was local spread a likely source of infection?)

Methods and Results

35 farms were monitored for PRRSV. As soon as a farm broke, all of the neighboring farms were sampled for PRRSV independently of the type of production on site. If a sick pen was present on the farm, effort was made to include it in the sampling. Positive samples were then sequenced to compare to the original virus from the outbreak.

PRRS area spread arruda
Graphical representation of the results of one specific region.

For two of the three area spread assessments performed, no similar sequence to the one obtained from the farm under investigation was found. Also it was not always possible to detect PRRSV in sick pens of the growing pig sites sampled in our study.

Science Page: PRRS EWMA analysis for years 2009 – 2018

This is our Friday rubric: every week a new Science Page from the Bob Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project. The previous editions of the science page are available on our website.

This week, we are sharing a report by the MSHMP team regarding the EMWA analysis for years 2009-2018.

Key points:

  • The  EWMA chart is a smoothed chart of the percentage of farms that are breaking.
  • Newly added farms to MSHMP increase the denominator therefore diluting the estimate which affects the EWMA chart giving the impression that PRRS season has changed.

Reminder: What is the EWMA?

The Exponential Weighted Moving Average (EMWA) is a statistical method that averages data over time, continually decreasing the weight of data as it moves further back in time.  An EWMA chart is particularly good at monitoring processes that drift over time and is used to detect small shifts in a trend.

In our project, EWMA is used to follow the evolution of the % of farms at risk that broke with PRRSV every week. EWMA incorporates all the weekly percentages recorded since the beginning of the project and gives less and less weight to the results as they are more removed in time. Therefore, the % of farms at risk that broke with PRRSV last week will have much more influence on the EMWA than the % of farms at risk that broke with PRRSV during the same week last year.

prrs_emwa_analysis

MSHMP report chart 4 depicts: 1)the number of new cases (green dots – secondary Y axis) during a specific week and 2)the percentage of farms that broke during that week of the total in the MSHMP project in a smoothed way (blue line/Y axis). The red horizontal line indicates the threshold (upper confidence limit  – UCL). This UCL is calculated based on the average of cases during the lowest PRRS months in the year, June, July and August and is recalculated every two years.
When  there are more cases than expected, the blue line crosses the threshold (red line) indicating there is an epidemic.

The formula used in the EWMA chart is the following:

EMVA formula
where E is the smoothed % of infected herds, lambda the constant smoothing the curve, I the % of infected herds during that week and Et-1 is the smoothed % of  infected herds during the previous week.

If different smoothing factors are applied to the MSHMP data this would generate different trends and then we would place the threshold based on the sensitivity
that we consider that signals an epidemic.

EMVA graph with different parameters

Has the incidence of PRRS changed?

One possible reason the EWMA % of cases decreasing might be that the number of farms that are breaking expressed as a percentage is less. This can be due to the fact that the total number of farms sharing PRRS status has been increasing and these new farms might have a lower underlying incidence.