Ohio — A retired Ohio State University veterinary
immunologist and pathologist who 15 years ago helped
identify a deadly pig virus is praising a former student
for raising concerns about dogs dying of a mysterious
Steven Krakowka said it took courage for Dr. Melanie
Butera to alert authorities when she saw something new
and disturbing at her Canal Fulton, Ohio, veterinary
took a big chance. If she’s wrong, she could get her
head chopped. But she’s not wrong," Krakowka said
this week from his Ohio State office where he continues
to conduct research part time.
knows firsthand the risks of stepping out.
and researchers John Ellis of Canada and Gordon Allen of
Ireland discovered porcine circovirus 2 (PCV2) in 1997.
They had trouble getting the U.S. swine industry to
believe they had discovered a new disease and spent more
than four years traveling the world talking about how to
deal with it.
the U.S. swine producers and particularly the swine
infectious disease veterinarians had to admit that this
disease was real and we had it in swine populations and
that we — John, Gordon and myself — were absolutely
correct," Krakowka said.
the vaccine developed to control the disease is given to
pigs born worldwide, saving pork producers an estimated
half a billion to a billion dollars a year in potential
questions in today’s mystery are large: Is this the
pig virus and has it jumped species? Are dog deaths in
California, Cincinnati and Canal Fulton due to the same
virus? Is the virus making dogs ill on its own, or is it
working in conjunction with something else?
virus originally was identified in dogs in California,
where it was labeled canine circovirus. It might be
spread by feces and respiratory tracts, which is the
case with porcine circovirus 2.
study that researchers at the University of California,
Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine published in April
said dogs were only the second mammal in which
circovirus has been detected. It has also been found in
pigeons, geese and canaries.
University of California-Davis results indicated that
circovirus, alone or in co-infection with other
pathogens, might have contributed to illness. On
Tuesday, the Veterinarian Information Network, an online
community for veterinarians, reported that samples from
three infected Ohio animals had been delivered to Dr.
Patricia Pesavento, an associate professor of pathology,
microbiology and immunology at the university. One
tested positive for DogCV.
network’s story did not indicate where the samples
came from in Ohio. In question is whether the circovirus
identified in a Canal Fulton dog that died last month is
the same illness that killed three dogs and sickened a
dozen others in Cincinnati in early August.
said previous researchers identified 10 animals that are
infected with canine circovirus.
have determined "circovirus is part of this; we don’t
know if it’s the same agent killing all of these
animals," she told the network.
said the distinction that researchers gave the virus an
individual name is telling.
California doctors have isolated and sequenced this
virus and compared it. I don’t know how close it is to
porcine circovirus 2. My guess is it is sufficiently
distinct to get the name ‘canine circovirus’ rather
than ‘pig circocvirus in dogs,’" Krakowka said.
he said, the question is whether the virus itself makes
the dogs ill, or whether the virus acts in conjunction
with something else.
other words, is circovirus itself causing the disease or
is the dog sick of something else and it happens to be
carrying circovirus?" said Krakowka, among the most
cited veterinary research scientists in the world,
according to Science Watch International.
pathologists studying PCV2 could not re-create the virus
by itself in the laboratory, Krakowka said. It needed
the help of other viral infections, which are not lethal
on their own, to produce the disease also known as
were a number of manipulations we had to do to get the
virus to work. It wasn’t just a case of inoculating
them to get it to work. It didn’t. We eventually
figured out that what was required (was) co-infections
with other agents. The virus all by itself does not
cause the disease. It needs help," Krakowka said.
the new virus is found to parallel PCV2, healthy, normal
dogs might be carriers that shed the virus through feces
and respiratory tracts for several weeks and months,
that spend most of their lives indoors are going to be
fine. But the dogs that are out there wandering around
chasing chipmunks in the park, they are going to
encounter other dogs with the disease — including the
dogs folks saved. It’s very likely that he is shedding
circovirus out of every pore. It is very likely he is
the source of infection to all sorts of dogs in the
neighborhood," he said.
STORY CAN END HERE)
Friday, the Ohio Department of Agriculture posted a
notice on its website asking veterinarians to contact
the Division of Animal Health if they suspect any
patients are suffering from the same symptoms affecting
dogs in the Akron-Canton area and Cincinnati.
we continue to work diligently to identify what is
making these dogs sick, we are asking Ohio’s
veterinarians to help by contacting our laboratory for
consultation if they suspect they are treating a related
case," State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey said.
dogs have exhibited similar symptoms including vomiting,
bloody diarrhea, weight loss and lethargy, according to
the agriculture department’s news release.
the symptoms being exhibited can also be linked to other
known illnesses, additional analysis and information is
needed to determine if this virus alone or in
co-infection contributes to illness and death in
dogs," Forshey said.
said he expects events will quickly move well beyond
private practice veterinarians who say they have found
where it’s going — research papers, grants,
meetings, symposiums, etc. And the drug companies are on
this, you can bet, and people are already gearing up to
go after it," he said.
called Butera "a very astute clinician to separate
normal sickness from something else."
fact that she’s in private practice rather than in an
academic environment makes it even more amazing because
there is almost no incentive to think outside the box
when you are a practitioner and you are trying to make a
living," he said.
sees a parallel between his experiences and those Canal
Fulton veterinarian Butera is going through after
notifying authorities of her suspicions.
a huge leap of faith to have the mental and the
emotional courage to get out in front of this because
nobody else has told you about it. And there you are,
right on the leading edge, saying we got something new.
And people paid attention," he said.