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Pork Checkoff makes progress on PRRS Building on work originally funded by

the Pork Checkoff, a consortium of scien- tists from around the country has discov- ered a genetic marker in pigs that identifies whether or not a pig has a reduced suscep- tibility to porcine reproductive and respi- ratory syndrome (PRRS) — a disease that costs the U.S. pork industry an estimated $664 million per year. The researchers found a genetic marker,

called a quantitative trait locus, on swine chromosome 4 that is associated with resistance to PRRS virus infection. According to Joan Lunney, a research sci- entist at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Beltsville, Md., this is especially important as this location also is associated with improved growth of pigs that are infected with the PRRS virus. She says results indicate a positive effect for PRRS resistance and higher weight gain. “PRRS is one of the industry’s top

ongoing issues, so this research discovery is a major step in the right direction,” said Lisa Becton, Checkoff’s director of swine

health and information. “Pork producers realize that supporting science-based research is not an overnight proposition. It’s especially gratifying to achieve results like this and to envision how they can be implemented at the farm level.” According to Chris Hostetler,

Checkoff’s director of animal science, the identification of the marker gene responsi- ble for increasing resistance to PRRS will allow genetics companies to more easily place selection pressure on PRRS resist- ance, which in turn, could allow producers to introduce new “PRRS-resistant” lines into their herds. “This could be one of the tools used to

help eliminate PRRS, but more important- ly, this work may provide the platform for finding similar marker genes responsible for conveying resistance to other economi- cally devastating diseases,” Hostetler said. The research team that led to this mark-

er discovery includes scientists at USDA’s ARS, Kansas State University and Iowa State University. The researchers continue

to be funded by the PRRS Host Genetics Consortium, a nationwide effort originally funded by the National Pork Board; the Coordinated Agricultural Project program; the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Swine Genome Coordinator for the National Animal Genome Research Program. To obtain the data necessary for the

marker research, researchers collected blood and tissue samples, along with weight-gain data, from 2,000 pigs at biose- cure facilities at Kansas State University. From there, ARS researchers performed genomic work at the facilities in Beltsville.

Finally, Iowa State University researchers used the resulting genomic data to search the entire genome of all pigs from earlier trials done by the PRRS Host Genetics Consortium. They worked to identify chro- mosomal segments common to pigs that had lower levels of PRRS virus circulating in their blood and that grew faster after PRRS infection. Now that scientists have found a chro-

mosomal segment that can signify resist- ance to PRRS, the next step is to pinpoint the gene and determine whether it shows the same effects for other strains of the PRRS virus.

White House clears way for BSE rule The White House Office of

Management and Budget (OMB) cleared the way for a comprehensive rule for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), which has been a work in progress since 2004. The proposed rule would reportedly

level the playing field for U.S. beef in the global marketplace by appropriate- ly addressing risk related to BSE. According to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

Associate Director of Legislative Affairs Kent Bacus, the lack of a com- prehensive rule has harmed U.S. beef trade. He said having a comprehensive BSE rule in place will show the United States is willing to talk the talk and walk the walk with regard to following

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standards developed by the International Organization for Animal Health (OIE). “It is very difficult for the United

States to demand our trading partners follow OIE standards when we are not here at home. The comprehensive BSE rule will change that and will solidify the United States’ commitment to basing our trade relationships on internationally- recognized, science-based standards,” Bacus said. “This rule has been a long time coming, and we stand ready to work with members of Congress and the administration to finalize this rule.” Non-science based standards have

resulted U.S. beef producers losing $100 million annually in beef trade to Mexico alone.

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