Podcast: CRISPR immunizes pigs against PRRS—deadly viral disease that costs $600 million annually

piglets today tease a c b ccf c b f
Image: Alamy stock
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Pigs worldwide are plagued by a series of viral diseases that slow growth, cause illness and drastically restrict reproduction. One of the most pervasive is known as Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome, or PRRS. As Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine notes, the disease wreaks havoc on pigs:

Primary clinical signs among young pigs are fever, depression, lethargy, stunting due to systemic disease, and pneumonia. Sneezing, fever and lethargy are followed by expiratory dyspnea and stunting …. Postweaning mortality often is markedly increased, especially with more virulent strains and the occurrence of ever-present concurrent and secondary infections.

PRRS increases pork production costs approximately $580 million annually, according to a 2017 estimate, as breeders attempt to manage the disease or prevent it with vaccination and other measures.While these practices help keep PRRS in check, Christine Burkard, assistant professor of infection and immunity at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, says her team has devised a solution to this pressing animal welfare concern.

christine tait burkard
Christine Burkard

Using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, the researchers have successfully deleted part of a gene from the pig genome, changing the structure of a corresponding protein called CD163 so the virus can’t attach to it. The gene-edited animals are PRRS resistant, showing “no signs of infection and no viremia or antibody response indicative of a productive infection,” Burkard and her colleagues reported in a 2018 study.

Related article:  Pesticides endanger humans, animals, beneficial insects? Rethinking simplistic notions, understanding trade-offs in sustainability and health

The disease-resistant pigs are beginning to enter breeding programs for further study. Following approval by the Food and Drug Administration, they could begin to enter the US food supply.

 

Christine Tait-Burkard is an assistant professor of infection and immunity, genetics and genomics at The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Follow her on Twitter @Cburkard4

Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta and email your questions to [email protected]

The Talking Biotech podcast, produced by Kevin Folta, is available for listening or subscription:

Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS | Player FM | Pod Directory | TuneIn

The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
sperm swim

Video: Sperm are ‘spinners not swimmers’—because they are lopsided

Research by fertility scientists in the UK and Mexico challenges the accepted view of how sperm “swim”, suggesting that it ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
breastfeeding bed x facebook x

Infographic: We know breastfeeding helps children. Now we know it helps mothers too

When a woman becomes pregnant, her risk of type 2 diabetes increases for the rest of her life, perhaps because ...
biotechnology worker x

Can GMOs rescue threatened plants and crops?

Some scientists and ecologists argue that humans are in the midst of an "extinction crisis" — the sixth wave of ...
food globe x

Are GMOs necessary to feed the world?

Experts estimate that agricultural production needs to roughly double in the coming decades. How can that be achieved? ...
eating gmo corn on the cob x

Are GMOs safe?

In 2015, 15 scientists and activists issued a statement, "No Scientific consensus on GMO safety," in the journal Environmental Sciences ...
Screen Shot at PM

Charles Benbrook: Agricultural economist and consultant for the organic industry and anti-biotechnology advocacy groups

Independent scientists rip Benbrook's co-authored commentary in New England Journal calling for reassessment of dangers of all GMO crops and herbicides ...
Screen Shot at PM

ETC Group: ‘Extreme’ biotechnology critic campaigns against synthetic biology and other forms of ‘extreme genetic engineering’

The ETC Group is an international environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Canada whose stated purpose is to monitor "the impact of emerging technologies and ...
Share via
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend