Kansas State University Responding to an Emerging Disease

Photo credit: USDA

Farmers in Asia and Europe have struggled with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) outbreaks for decades, but the virus did not reach the U.S. until spring of 2013. In the fall of that year, it killed 1.4 million piglets and health authorities had to move quickly.

Researchers at Kansas State University sprang into action. Dr. Jason Woodworth and his team first confirmed pig feed as a path of transmission. This was novel for viruses. The team then determined the minimum amount of virus in the feed that would lead to infection.

In university research, we’re looking for solutions that benefit the whole industry. We’re trying to find ways to improve nutrition, production, and overall profitability.

– Dr. Jason Woodworth

The researchers scrutinized the feed production process and discovered that forming feed into pellets using temperatures of at least 130°F killed the virus, rendering the feed safe. Other solutions, such as treating feed with medium chain fatty acids, were also discovered to prevent infection. As a result, new feed processing steps for maintaining virus-free feed have been implemented nationally.

The team at Kansas State played a critical role in containing the outbreak. The cumulative incidence of PEDv infections dropped from 56 percent in 2013-4 to 6 percent in 2015-16.

Retaking The Field Volume 1 “Retaking the Field: The Case for a Surge in Agricultural Research” is a collaborative report from 13 partnering universities and the SoAR Foundation. The report provides a compelling case to policymakers and the public for increased federal agricultural research funding by celebrating the advances and exploring the untapped potential of the agriculture and food sciences. View The Issue
Retaking the Field Volume 1: The Case for a Surge in Agricultural Research Click to download report

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