DC, April 15, 2004 (ENS): The U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA) will contribute $8.8 million to
two international research collaboratives seeking to
control and eliminate Johne's disease in cattle, sheep
and goats and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome
(PRRS) in swine. Both research projects will be conducted
over four years at the University of Minnesota's College
of Veterinary Medicine.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced the financial
contributions on Wednesday, saying the two diseases
cause more than $800 million a year in losses to the
industry and the consuming public.
"These grants will support critical research,
education and extension activities to develop practical
applications against these diseases," said Veneman.
The two grants are the largest ever to be awarded for
animal disease research by the USDA's Cooperative State
Research, Education, and Extension Service.
PRRS first appeared in the United States in 1986 and
is found worldwide and in all major swine producing
areas of the United States. PRRS results in reproductive
failure in adult females and pneumonia in nursing pigs
and can lead to death. It spreads easily among herds.
Johne's disease (JD) is a chronic, infectious, wasting
disease of cattle. Symptoms include chronic diarrhea
and weight loss, decreased milk production, reduced
fertility, and eventually death.
"An estimated 22 percent of all U.S. dairy herds
are infected with Johne's disease," said the USDA
in a statement announcing the grants, but the University
of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine says "approximately
40 percent of all dairy farms in the United States are
infected with the bacterium that causes JD."
Johne's disease results in "more than a billion
dollars of economic loss every year," the university
said. The impact is especially severe in larger dairy
herds, and is estimated to cost up to $200 per year
for each cow in the herd.
Several studies also suggest a link between the bacterium
that causes JD and a severe autoimmune disease, Crohn’s
disease, in humans.
The JD research project is led by Vivek Kapur, BVSc,
Ph.D., professor of microbiology at the Medical School
and co-director of the University’s Biomedical
Genomics Center. A total of 72 researchers from 23 other
universities, state and federal governmental agencies,
and stakeholder groups such as the National Milk Producers
Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
The research goals are to understand how JD is transmitted,
to develop new diagnostic tools to track the disease
in herds, to study how JD progresses, and to develop
a vaccine or methods of boosting herd immunity.
“PRRS is, by far, the most significant disease
affecting swine,” said Michael Murtaugh, Ph.D.,
principal investigator and professor at the College
of Veterinary Medicine.“We are working with the
swine producers, veterinarians and allied industries
to maximize the resources available to solve this problem
and reach our ultimate goal – eliminating PRRS
regionally, if not nationally.”
"Project collaborators include more than 100 scientists
and education experts from two dozen institutions in
20 states as well as experts in Canada, Mexico, Spain,
Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia," said
Joseph Jen, USDA undersecretary for research, education,