Farming Life has learnt that Northern Ireland's leading position in researching the link between PCV2 (Porcine CircoVirus 2) and the development of PMWS (Post-weaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome) is to be further enhanced in the New Year.
Currently co-ordinating groups working in 16 European locations, a research team at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's Veterinary Sciences Division (VSD) under the leadership of Gordon Allan has been informed that it will be maintained as the leading centre of excellence in a soon to be expanded research programme involving an additional 15 organisations, mostly located in Eastern Europe.
"PMWS is an internationally-important pig disease," confirmed Gordon Allan. "It is multi-factorial in nature, however, the presence of PCV2 has been identified as being necessary to facilitate its development in all cases. The team at the VSD was the first to isolate the virus, replicate it and then to reproduce PMWS in pigs."
He added: "Our initial research was funded by DARD, Queen's University Belfast and Merial Animal Health.
This led to the current EUR3.5 million (£2.3 million) programme which has been funded solely by the EU. And there are now high expectations that our work on PCV2 will be further expanded in 2006."
Gordon Allan's remarks were made against the backdrop of this week's International Conference on Animal Circoviruses and Associated Diseases, hosted by Queen's University Belfast. The event was attended by 180 delegates-from around the world with the selection of the Northern Ireland venue further vindication of the cutting edge role played by local scientists and vets in researching the potentially devastating impact of PMWS.
This work has led, in part, to the development of a PCV2 vaccine by Merial Animal Health which is currently on trial in Germany and France Extensive herd testing has shown that many pig herds harbour PCV2 but only a few come down with the disease itself.
"This means that other issues, such as stress and environmental conditions, are also coming into play," said Gordon Allan. "And we are working to identify the full impact of these associated factors at the present time."