Investigation into an outbreak of encephalomyelitis caused by a neuroinvasive porcine sapelovirus in the United Kingdom.
An outbreak of neurological disease in grower pigs characterised by ataxia and paraparesis was investigated in this study. The outbreak occurred 3-4 weeks post weaning in grower pigs which displayed signs of spinal cord damage progressing to recumbency. Pathology in the affected spinal cords and to a lesser extent in the brainstem was characterised by pronounced inflammation and neuronophagia in the grey matter. Molecular investigation using a pan-virus microarray identified a virus related to porcine sapelovirus (PSV) in the spinal cord of the two affected pigs examined. Analysis of 802 nucleotides of the virus polymerase gene showed the highest homology with those of viruses in the genus Sapelovirus of Picornaviridae. This PSV, strain G5, shared 91-93%, 67-69% and 63% nucleotide homology with porcine, simian and avian sapeloviruses, respectively. The nucleotide homology to other members of the Picornaviridae ranged from 41% to 62%. Furthermore, viral antigen was detected and co-localised in the spinal cord lesions of affected animals by an antibody known to react with PSV. In conclusion, clinical and laboratory observations of the diseased pigs in this outbreak are consistent with PSV-G5 being the causative agent. To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is the first unequivocal report of polioencephalomyelitis in pigs by a neuroinvasive PSV in the United Kingdom.