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RVC scientists develop severity estimation calculator for PMWS


Scientists at the Royal Veterinary College, contributing to a 11.5m in total BBSRC funded programme to tackle some of the most harmful and widespread endemic diseases that commonly affect farmed animals in the UK, have developed a severity estimation calculator for Post-weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome (PMWS).

Post-weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) is a common disease of young pigs in the U.K. It is extremely debilitating, causes considerable suffering and poor welfare, and has a high mortality of up to 30%. It is estimated that the disease costs the UK farming industry 30m per year.

The 2.4m project – headed by Professor Dirk Werling from the Royal Veterinary College and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) through its Combating Endemic Diseases For Farm-Animal Sustainability programme (CEDFAS), the British Pig Executive (BPEX), and two industrial partners, Pfizer Ltd (UK) and BioBest – aims to identify why PMWS occurs and to develop new methods of controlling the disease.

One key-component of the project is the direct involvement of British pig farmers, thereby guaranteeing that pigs in Britain will be the first to benefit from this research, while collaboration with a major international pharmaceutical company will ensure that new veterinary products will be made available to pig farmers worldwide.

Now, two members of the team, Dr. Barbara Wieland and Pablo Alarcon-Lopez, a second year PhD student, have developed a novel approach to quantify severity of PMWS based on morbidity and mortality data and presence of porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2). They applied factorial analyses, using data collected from 147 pig farms in England to identify variables contributing to variation in PMWS severity in a biologically meaningful way.

Together with other known variables linked to PMWS, the resulting factors were used to derive an algorithm for PMWS severity. The derived algorithm was used to develop a PMWS severity calculator, which now can be used by farmers directly to assess the PMWS severity on their own farm (

The levels of PMWS severities identified on farm level can now be used to identify risk factors related to the different severity-categories, to assess the efficacy of PCV2 vaccination and to investigate the economic impact of potential control measures on a farm.

The Royal Veterinary College is the UK’s first and largest veterinary school and a constituent College of the University of London. It also provides support for veterinary and related professions through its three referral hospitals, diagnostic services and continuing professional development courses.

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