In veterinary medicine and animal husbandry, there is a need for tools allowing the early warning of diseases. Preferably, tests should be available that warn farmers and veterinarians during the incubation periods of disease and before the onset of clinical signs. The objective of this study was to explore the potential of serum protein profiles as an early biomarker for infectious disease status. Serum samples were obtained from an experimental pig model for porcine circovirus-associated disease (PCVAD), consisting of Porcine Circovirus type 2 (PCV2) infection in combination with either Porcine Parvovirus (PPV) or Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus (PRRSV). Sera were collected before and after onset of clinical signs at day 0, 5 and 19 post infection. Serum protein profiles were evaluated against sera from non-infected control animals.
Protein profiles were generated by SELDI-TOF mass spectrometry in combination with the Proteominer™ technology to enrich for low-abundance proteins. Based on these protein profiles, the experimentally infected pigs could be classified according to their infectious disease status. Before the onset of clinical signs 88% of the infected animals could be classified correctly, after the onset of clinical sigs 93%. The sensitivity of the classification appeared to be high. The protein profiles could distinguish between separate infection models, although specificity was moderate to low. Classification of PCV2/PRRSV infected animals was superior compared to PCV2/PPV infected animals. Limiting the number of proteins in the profiles (ranging from 568 to 10) had only minor effects on the classification performance.
This study shows that serum protein profiles have potential for detection and identification of viral infections in pigs before clinical signs of the disease become visible.