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Piglets and a sow in a modern pig facility. Photo courtesy of National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff.

Study: Feed additives can stem disease in pigs

Five commercially available feed additives may help to stop the spread of deadly viral diseases in pigs, according to the initial results of an ongoing research project.

Three diseases — porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, porcine epidemic diarrhea and Seneca Valley A — threaten the swine industry and the global food supply. The study confirms that these diseases can spread through contaminated animal feed.

But the research found that specific feed additives, or mitigants, can "deactivate the viruses and reduce the spread of diseases ... (T)he mitigants protected almost all animals from becoming positive for infection (by the three diseases) and significantly reduced the number of animals that developed signs of disease," according to the research conducted by Pipestone Applied Research, a division of Pipestone (Minn.) Veterinary Services.

Scott Dee, research director at Pipestone Applied Research, announced the initial results during the National Pork Industry Conference in the Wisconsin Dells.

This study is said to be one of the first that produced results in a research setting replicating commercial conditions. Dee and collaborators suggest that pork producers consider using these mitigants to protect their animals.

The research was funded by a grant from the nonprofit Foundation for Farm and Agriculture Research's Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research program, which deploys research funding "in response to emerging or unanticipated threats to the nation's food supply or agricultural systems." The grant is being matched by ADM Animal Nutrition, Anitox, Kemin Industries, PMI Nutrition Additives and Swine Health Information Center.

"These results are a huge step forward in helping swine producers protect their animals from devastating diseases," Foundation for Farm and Agriculture Research Executive Director Sally Rockey said in a written statement. "This research helps producers control the spread of these diseases and improve health outcomes, all without antibiotics."

A second phase of the research later this year will test the effectiveness of five additional mitigants.

In a separate grant funded by the Foundation for Farm and Agriculture Research, research at Kansas State University will build on this research to test whether the mitigants can be added to feed to protect against African swine fever, a disease without a cure raising concern worldwide.

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome has infected up to half of the national sow herd and costs U.S. farmers more than $560 million annually, according to information from the Foundation for Farm and Agriculture Research.

Porcine epidemic diarrhea infects and kills 10%t of the pig crop. With no treatment or cure, the mortality rate can reach 100% in piglets, according to the foundation.

Seneca Valley A, a relative of foot and mouth disease, has been a problem for U.S. pork producers since 2015, the foundation said.

More information on the research grant: