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Pathogenesis and detection of porcine circovirus type 2 in the Australian pig herd

O'Dea, MarkORCID: 0000-0002-2757-7585 (2008) Pathogenesis and detection of porcine circovirus type 2 in the Australian pig herd. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The diagnosis of porcine circovirus-associated disease (PCVAD) in pigs requires the detection of characteristic clinical signs and pathological changes, and the detection of virus in tissues of affected pigs. To increase Australia’s capacity to independently diagnose PCVAD in Australia, techniques for the detection of Porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) infection in pigs were developed and are reported in this thesis. These techniques were applied to samples obtained from normal pigs and pigs with disease and confirmed the presence of PCV2 and PCVAD in the Australian pig herd.

Viral DNA was detected in tissues of infected pigs by both standard PCR and real-time PCR techniques. The real-time PCR was more sensitive. While the conventional PCR was able to detect approximately 100 copies of the viral genome, the real-time PCR was able to detect 20 copies of the genome. An immunohistochemical (IHC) technique which was also developed enabled the visualisation of PCV2 antigen in fixed tissues of pigs with PCVAD.

The techniques that were developed were applied to an examination of tissues from pigs affected by illthrift and increased weaner mortality in herds in South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia. Lesions suggestive of the PCVAD postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) were detected and virus antigen was detected in association with lesions. The nature of the clinical signs and histopathological lesions detected, coupled with the presence of PCV2 antigen, suggested that PCVAD was present in some Australian pig herds. Phylogenetic analysis of the strains of PCV2-associated with these disease outbreaks demonstrated they were of a type not previously detected in Australia and similar to strains associated with PMWS in North America.

To further assist in investigation of PCV2 infections in the Australian pig herd, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed that specifically detected antibody to PCV2 and not the related and non-pathogenic Porcine circovirus type 1. The development of this assay required the production of a virus capsid protein antigen using a prokaryotic protein production system. The ELISA was used to test serum samples form the Australian national pig serum bank. A high prevalence of PCV2 infection was detected in most pig herds examined in all Australian states.

International trade in pig meat has resulted in many countries placing restrictions on the importation of pig meat, requiring imported pig meats to be cooked to destroy viral agents. This study investigated the in vitro resistance of an Australian strain of PCV2 to heat treatment at temperatures between 56°C and 85°C. The viability of the virus was determined by a combination of reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and IHC to visualise viral capsid antigen within infected cells. This study indicated that PCV2 retained its infectivity following heating up to and including 75°C for 15 mins, but was inactivated following heating to 80°C and above.

The investigations reported make a significant contribution to PCV2 research in Australia and ensure Australia’s capacity to independently investigate PCVAD in the Australian pig herd.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Supervisor(s): Wilcox, Graham
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