Frontiers in microbiology 2016 12 157() 2009 doi 10.3389/fmicb.2016.02009
The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) causes an acute and highly contagious enteric disease characterized by severe enteritis, vomiting, watery diarrhea, and a high mortality rate in seronegative neonatal piglets. In the last few years, PED had a large economic impact on the swine industries in Asia and the US, and in 2014, the PEDV also re-emerged in Europe. Two main PEDV variants circulate worldwide but only the S INDEL variant, considered a mild strain, is spreading in Europe. To gain insights into the pathogenicity of this variant, its viral load and temporal shedding pattern were evaluated in piglets from infected farms. Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) targeting the spike gene, was validated according to the minimum information for quantitative real-time PCR experiments guidelines. The qPCR was applied to longitudinal studies conducted in four swine farms naturally infected with the PEDV S INDEL variant. Clinical data, fecal swabs, and blood samples were collected from 103 piglets at 15-30-day intervals for 2-5 months. On all four farms, diarrhea was observed in sows during gestation and in farrowing units, and the mortality rates of piglets were 18, 25, 30, and 35%. Different clinical pictures (0-50% of diarrhea positivity), viral titer levels (mean 5.3-7.2 log10 genome copies/mL), and antibody conditions (30-80% of positivity) were registered among sows on the four farms. The percentage of qPCR positive piglets varied greatly from the beginning (63-100%) to the end (0%) of the infection course. Clinical signs were present in 96% of the qPCR positive animals. Viral loads ranged from 8.5 log10 to 4 log10 genome copies/mL in suckling pigs at 3-6 days of age and were not statistically different among farms, despite the different patterns observed in sows. After 2-3 weeks, only a few piglets still showed detectable viral levels and clinical signs, and they developed antibody responses. Moreover, co-infections with other pathogens and biosecurity procedures limiting the circulation of the virus could have influenced the severity of PED infection. QPCR and clinical data were useful in understanding the dynamics of PEDV infections and, therefore, in implementing appropriate control measures.