Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) is an enteric disease of swine that has emerged as a worldwide threat to swine herd health and production. Substantial research has been conducted to assess viability of the virus on surfaces of vehicles and equipment, in feed and water, and on production building surfaces, but little is known about the persistence in PEDV-infected carcasses and effective disposal methods thereof. This study was conducted to quantify the persistence of PEDV RNA via quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) at various time-temperature combinations and in infected piglet carcasses subjected to composting. Although this method does not distinguish between infectious and noninfectious virus, it is a rapid and sensitive test to evaluate materials for evidence of virus genome.
In the first study, PEDV was suspended in cell culture media at 1 × 105 TCID50 per sample (1 mL sample size) and subjected to various time and temperature combinations in triplicate including temperatures of 37, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 °C and exposure times of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 14 days. At all temperatures, viral RNA copies declined over time, with the decline most marked and rapid at 65 and 70 °C. Detectable RNA did persist throughout the trial in all but the most extreme condition, where two of three samples incubated at 70 °C yielded undetectable viral RNA after 14 days. In the second study, PEDV-infected piglet carcasses were subjected to two cycles of composting lasting 36 and 37 days, respectively, for a total compost time of 73 days. Composting was performed in triplicate windrow sections housed inside biosecure, climate-controlled rooms using insulated bins designed to represent a continuous windrow compost pile. Temperatures reached 35-57 °C for 26 days of cycle 1 and 35-45 °C for 3 days of cycle 2. Samples consisting of carbon material with or without decomposed tissue as available per sample site collected at ten locations throughout the cross-section of each windrow section following the primary and secondary compost cycles yielded no detectable viral RNA.
Composting appears to be an effective disposal method for PEDV-infected piglet carcasses under the conditions examined. The combination of time and high temperature of the compost cycle effectively degraded viral RNA in cell culture media that should provide optimum stability. Complex compost material matrices collected from windrow sections yielded undetectable PEDV RNA by qRT-PCR after one 36-day compost cycle despite incomplete decomposition of soft tissue.