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J Vet Diagn Invest. 1993 Oct;5(4):522-8.

Laboratory investigation of PRRS virus infection in three swine herds.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary Science/Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, South Dakota State University, Brookings 57006.


Late in 1991, an enveloped RNA virus (now called porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome [PRRS] virus) was identified as the etiologic agent for mystery swine disease. In 1992, laboratory procedures for the diagnosis of this disease evolved rapidly, and veterinary diagnosticians started applying these tests to field cases. This report is written from the perspective of veterinary laboratory diagnosticians and utilizes 3 case studies to define the advantages and disadvantages of the various available diagnostic laboratory PRRS test procedures in different clinical situations. The diagnostic procedures currently used in our laboratory for investigating PRRS are pathologic examination, serologic testing, fluorescent antibody (FA) testing, and virus isolation. Interstitial pneumonia, characterized by mononuclear cell infiltration of alveolar walls with normal airway epithelium, is a hallmark lesion for the disease, especially in neonatal pigs with respiratory distress. Interstitial pneumonia is not a specific lesion and must be coupled with other tests to verify PRRS virus infection. Demonstration of seroconversion is helpful, especially in sows that have experienced reproductive failure. The indirect FA test detects antibody sooner than the serum neutralization test and will likely become the serologic test of choice. The direct FA test on fresh tissue utilizes monoclonal antibody and is useful for investigating PRRS virus-associated pneumonia. Virus isolation utilizing swine alveolar macrophages has also been a useful diagnostic procedure. All of the above tests have been universally unrewarding when applied to aborted, mummified, or stillborn piglets.

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