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Immunity, and understanding how to manage it, remains the ‘big frontier’ in disease protection

Whether the goal is to decrease sow mortality, improve productivity, maximize weight gain or improve feed efficiency, a pig’s immune system plays a key role.

“The goal of any operation is to keep an animal as healthy as possible, which means keeping the immune system healthy,” Victor Cortese, DVM, PhD, a veterinarian* specializing in immunology, told a group of swine veterinarians.

He noted the research, application and practice associated with the immune system have made great strides, but there are still many unknowns.

“If we look at human medicine, immunology is the big frontier,” Cortese said. “We are still learning about the immune system, and there are mysteries we don’t understand.”

Borrowing a quote from Edward Bradley, an immunologist interviewed by National Geographic in 1986, Cortese added, “We probably know as little about the immune system now as Columbus knew about the Americas after his first voyage.”1

He cited cancer therapies as an example, noting that almost any modality for cancer now has some component of immune treatments.2 “Ten or 15 years ago it was all radiation and chemotherapy, so you can see how quickly things are changing and how much we’re learning,” he added.

Understanding the immune system

To appreciate the new concepts in immunity management, it’s important for veterinarians to understand there are two types of immunity — innate and adaptive — although these distinctions
are not mutually exclusive.3….


Read the rest of this article and download our Integrated flu management: New strategies for control special report.




1 T Cells and B Cells Go to College. https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/101990842.
2 Sharma P, Kumar P, Sharma R. Natural Killer Cells – Their Role in Tumour Immunosurveillance. J Clin Diagn Res. 2017;11(8):BE01-BE05. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2017/26748.10469
3 Introduction to Immunology, The Biology Project, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, College of Science, University of Arizona. http://www.biology.arizona.edu/immunology/

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“The goal of any operation is to keep an animal as healthy as possible, which means keeping the immune system healthy,” says Victor Cortese, DVM, PhD, a veterinarian specializing in immunology. Here are the basics of this complex science.

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Posted on March 9, 2021

  • 8 ways to boost immunity in livestock

    Victor Cortese, DVM, PhD, drew on his decades of field experience and expertise in immunology to offer tips for optimizing immunity in swine herds in the face of IAV-S.

  • New approaches to influenza control look promising

    Influenza-A virus of swine (IAV-S) is a thorn in the side of US pork producers, and it’s a difficult thorn to remove. If the virus were more pathogenic, veterinarians and producers would probably talk about it more.

  • Highlights of flu-management strategies meeting now available

    A special report from Pig Health Today, “Integrated Flu Management: New Strategies for Control,” reports on key presentations by experts in influenza A virus in swine (IAV-S) and features highlights of a roundtable involving swine practitioners.

  • Preventing flu transmission from humans to pigs

    Farm employees can have a marked impact on the success of controlling IAV-S. Two roundtable panelists share their views.

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It’s not unrealistic to say that if you checked the nasal cavities or tonsils of any group of pigs, you would find Strep suis. While the strain and impact can vary widely, this commensal bacterium is on virtually every hog farm.

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