Research in Missouri Leads To Production Of Virus Resistant Pigs

Researchers from the University of Missouri have successfully come up with a breed of pigs that are resistant to the deadly porcine virus.

Transmissible Gastroenteritis is a virus that infects the intestines and has an almost 100 percent mortality rate in young pigs. A collaborative team from Kansas State University, Missouri University and Genus plc (an animal genetics company), created the genetically resistant pigs through gene editing.

Randall Prather, a professor at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources stated that the ANPEP enzyme had been identified in previous research and could be a significant factor in allowing the virus to affect the pigs, as the enzyme is a potential receptor for the virus. The team’s litter of seven virus resistant pigs do not produce ANPEP and hence when exposed to the virus, they do not get sick. Prather and his colleagues achieved this by editing the ANPEP enzyme producing gene, creating a “null” gene that did not make the enzyme. Furthermore, the genetically modified pigs were healthy and developed normally.

The discovery is significant for the pork industry, as the virus is a major concern for US producers. In 2013, around seven million pigs were killed by an outbreak. The production of virus resistant pigs will help to ease the burden of finances, time and labor invested by farmers in pigs that may contract the virus. Preventing the pigs from getting sick will also improve the welfare of the animals. As the population grows and food becomes more scarce, innovative projects like these will be crucial for future food production.

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