Lopez to Research Porcine Virus

Osvaldo Lopez (Biology, pictured with two students in his lab) has been put in charge of a research project to control and eliminate porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) in the United States.

Pregnant sows that are infected with PRRSV either give birth to a stillborn litter or, if the litter survives, it suffers from delayed growth and cannot be used for agricultural purposes. He said the virus is a worldwide problem, costing the pig industry roughly $25 per sow.

Lopez and his team of NMU undergraduate and graduate students will collaborate with researchers at the Universities of Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska. Their main focus will be gaining an understanding of the protective immune response of PRRSV in order to create an effective vaccine against it. A total of $380,000 in grants has been awarded for this project.


“Our research is important because this virus can wipe out entire businesses,” said Lopez. “A family-owned pig farm with only a few herds will go bankrupt if hit with PRRSV. A larger company will be able to stay afloat, but will still suffer tremendous losses.”


An understanding of the protective immune response of PRRSV will also lend an understanding of how other viruses work, such as HIV and hepatitis. The development of a PRRSV vaccine will add to the possibility of creating vaccines for other deadly viruses in the future. It will also serve as a unique learning experience for the students who are working on it.


“Chances are about 1 in 100 that we’ll develop an effective vaccine,” said Lopez. “But if we don’t do it, then we’ll at least provide helpful research for someone who can.”


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Updated: October 26, 2005

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