2014-15 Rapid Ag: Identifying the Genetic Diversity of Swine Group B and C Rotaviruses: Steps Towards Developing a Universal Rotavirus B/C Subunit Vaccine

October 1, 2014

Principal Leader

Jim Collins


Veterinary Population Medicine

Funding Awarded

2014 Fiscal Year: $66,000

2015 Fiscal Year: $31,500

The Problem

Rotaviruses (RVs) cause severe diarrhea in young animals and humans worldwide. To prevent piglet mortality and morbidly, urgent action is needed to develop a vaccine against RVB and RVC.


Every pig will experience a RV infection, if not multiple infections, within its lifetime. In our recent publication, the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UMVDL) diagnosed RVA, RVB, and RVC in 92% of their porcine enteric disease cases. Significant intestinal damage due to RV infection in pigs <21 days of age frequently results in death, while piglets >21 days of age often recover from a RV infection. However, the severe intestinal damage due to RV infection results in reduced absorption of nutrients and reduced weight gain, translating to increased days to market and economic losses to the pig producer.

To prevent piglet mortality and morbidly, urgent action is needed to develop a vaccine against RVB and RVC. Locally, reducing the impact of RVB/RVC disease will directly benefit the Minnesota pork industry, ranked second in production in the United States, and valued in excess of 6.9 billion dollars in gross income annually to the state of Minnesota. In addition, for every dollar generated by the Minnesota pork industry, the state collects $2.80 in economic 2 return. Globally, an effective RVB/RVC vaccine is also a top priority. Given the inability of RVB and RVC to grow in cell culture, subunit vaccine methodology represents a viable alternative for developing a RVB/RVC vaccine. By using Next Generation Sequencing technology, the complete genome of RVB and RVC strains can be sequenced to better assess the molecular diversity of these viruses. While the entire genome of a single swine RVC sample has been sequenced, the complete genome of a single swine RVB strain has yet to be sequenced. Before the development of a universal RVB/RVC vaccine, sequencing of several RVB and RVC strains is crucial to fully understand the molecular diversity of these viruses and discover suitable targets for subunit RVB/RVC vaccines.


  1. Whole-genome sequence ~80 RVB and ~80 RVC positive samples using a Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platform.

  2. Identify potential vaccine targets, based on conserved and variable gene regions identified within the RVB and RVC genomes.

  3. Infer the phylogenetic relationships and characterize the evolutionary dynamics of the RVB and RVC sequences.

Jim Collins with a piglet.

Developing vaccines for Rotaviruses (RVs) is one of several swine projects Jim Collins and his team work on at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.