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Detecting and Monitoring Porcine Hemagglutinating Encephalomyelitis Virus, an Underresearched Betacoronavirus

Members of family Coronaviridae cause a variety of diseases in birds and mammals. Porcine hemagglutinating encephalomyelitis virus (PHEV), a lesser-researched coronavirus, can infect naive pigs of any age, but clinical disease is observed in pigs ≤4 weeks of age. No commercial PHEV vaccines are available, and neonatal protection from PHEV-associated disease is presumably dependent on lactogenic immunity. Although subclinical PHEV infections are thought to be common, PHEV ecology in commercial swine herds is unknown. To begin to address this gap in knowledge, a serum IgG antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) based on the S1 protein was developed and evaluated on known-status samples and then used to estimate PHEV seroprevalence in U.S. sow herds. Assessment of the diagnostic performance of the PHEV S1 ELISA using serum samples (n = 924) collected from 7-week-old pigs (n = 84; 12 pigs per group) inoculated with PHEV, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, transmissible gastroenteritis virus, porcine respiratory coronavirus, or porcine deltacoronavirus showed that a sample-to-positive cutoff value of ≥0.6 was both sensitive and specific, i.e., all PHEV-inoculated pigs were seropositive from days postinoculation 10 to 42, and no cross-reactivity was observed in samples from other groups. The PHEV S1 ELISA was then used to estimate PHEV seroprevalence in U.S. sow herds (19 states) using 2,756 serum samples from breeding females (>28 weeks old) on commercial farms (n = 104) with no history of PHEV-associated disease. The overall seroprevalence was 53.35% (confidence interval [CI], ±1.86%) and herd seroprevalence was 96.15% (CI, ±3.70%). IMPORTANCE There is a paucity of information concerning the ecology of porcine hemagglutinating encephalomyelitis virus (PHEV) in commercial swine herds. This study provided evidence that PHEV infection is endemic and highly prevalent in U.S. swine herds. These results raised questions for future studies regarding the impact of endemic PHEV on swine health and the mechanisms by which this virus circulates in endemically infected populations. Regardless, the availability of the validated PHEV S1 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) provides the means for swine producers to detect and monitor PHEV infections, confirm prior exposure to the virus, and to evaluate the immune status of breeding herds.

Mora-Díaz J, Magtoto R, Houston E, Baum D, Carrillo-Ávila J, Temeeyasen G, Zimmerman J, Piñeyro P, Giménez-Lirola L. Detecting and Monitoring Porcine Hemagglutinating Encephalomyelitis Virus, an Underresearched Betacoronavirus. mSphere. 2020 May. https://doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00199-20