ISU developed test to detect Japanese encephalitis virus

by | Jun 10, 2024 | 5 Ag Stories, News

In 2013, when the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus made its way to the U.S., the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (ISU VDL) had to design a high-capacity test to keep up with the outbreak. Now there’s another disease that’s made a global spread. Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), which is a mosquito-borne disease common in southeast Asia, found its way to Australia in 2022. While it hasn’t made it to the U.S., it’s still been a high-priority target for researchers. Dr. Rahul Nelli, a research assistant professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine at Iowa State University, has been heading up the project at the ISU VDL and said there are many signs of JEV to look out for in livestock.

Dr. Nelli said the prevention strategy for JEV starts with being able to accurately detect it in swine.

Since the samples of JEV are very controlled, it could take about a year for the VDL test to be validated on known samples from Australia to confirm its accuracy. Once the detection method is consistent, Dr. Nelli said that the focus can shift to biosecurity.

JEV is also zoonotic, and so far it has also been detected in humans and horses. While severe symptoms in infected humans are rare at only 1 in 250, the cases where they do develop have a fatality rate as high as 30%.

As with any foreign animal disease outbreak, a JEV outbreak could cause significant damage to the pork industry, with the potential for a 1-2% drop in U.S. pork production and economic losses of up to $612 million. For more information, visit