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Research News

Severity estimation calculator helps farmers to assess their PMWS problem

25 October 2010

Scientists at the Royal Veterinary College, contributing to a £11.5m in total BBSRC funded programme to tackle some of the most harmful and widespread endemic diseases that commonly affect farmed animals in the UK, have developed a severity estimation calculator for PMWS.

Post-weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) is a common disease of young pigs in the U.K. It is extremely debilitating, causes considerable suffering and poor welfare, and has a high mortality of up to 30%. It is estimated that the disease costs the UK farming industry £30m per year. The £2.4m project, headed by Professor Dirk Werling from the Royal Veterinary College and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) through its “Combating Endemic Diseases For Farm-Animal Sustainability” programme (CEDFAS), the British Pig Executive (BPEX), and two industrial partners, Pfizer Ltd (UK) and BioBest, aims to identify why PMWS occurs and to develop new methods of controlling the disease. One key-component of the project is the direct involvement of British pig farmers, thereby guaranteeing that pigs in Britain will be the first to benefit from this research, while collaboration with a major international pharmaceutical company will ensure that new veterinary products will be made available to pig farmers worldwide.

Now, two members of the team, Dr. Barbara Wieland and Pablo Alarcon-Lopez, a second year PhD student, have developed a novel approach to quantify severity of PMWS based on morbidity and mortality data and presence of porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2). They applied factorial analyses, using data collected from 147 pig farms in England to identify variables contributing to variation in PMWS severity in a biologically meaningful way. Together with other known variables linked to PMWS, the resulting factors were included in a principal component analysis to derive an algorithm for PMWS severity. The derived algorithm was used to develop a PMWS severity calculator, which now can be used by farmers directly to assess the PMWS severity on their own farm (http://www.bpex.org.uk/articles/300874).

The levels of PMWS severities identified on farm level can now be used to identify risk factors related to the different severity-categories, to assess the efficacy of PCV2 vaccination on a farm and to investigat the economic impact of potential control measures on a farm.

Severly affected PMWS pigs

Picture showing severely affected PMWS pigs compared to normal pigs of the same age group. Our research is aiming to help these types of affected pigs.

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