Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are exploring the effect of disease on thyroid hormone levels in pigs and potential treatment options for the resulting reduction in growth performance. Research conducted by the Western College of Veterinary Medicine has shown severe infections, such as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, can impact the function of the hypothalamus and pituitary and thyroid glands resulting in hypothyroidism.
Dr. Glenn Hamonic, a Post Doctoral Fellow working in PRRS research at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says during severe infections thyroid hormone levels can drop to 50 percent of normal and researchers have found a clear association with the level of hypothyroidism they hit during infection and growth performance.
Clip-Dr. Glenn Hamonic-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:
We've primarily characterized the mechanism in the fetal group so we’re looking to characterize it in nursery pigs to see if it's all of the stages of the thyroid hormone control system that are being impacted by these diseases.
Then the other things we’re looking at are, is there potentially a genetic component that we could select for and an animal that won’t reach that same level of suppression? Then we're also looking at, if there is any way to mitigate this impacted growth performance, whether through drug treatment or something along those lines.
Right now we're investigating some potential treatment options where, when you see a barn breaking with PRRS, you can go in and treat for two to three weeks and hopefully that will alleviate the suppression.
That's kind of the goal there and then a more high ended goal is looking for potential genetic markers that could be selected for and bred for. It's those animals that, through some mechanism, are able to maintain those higher thyroid hormone levels during the course of an infection and the end goal of that is we're looking for ways to alleviate that growth suppression that happens in all of these infections.