African swine fever is a highly infectious disease of domestic and wild pigs. The causative agent is the African swine fever virus (ASFV), a large dsDNA virus and sole member of the Asfaviridae family. ASFV asymptomatically infects its natural host warthogs, and soft bodied ticks. However infection of domestic swine results in haemorrhagic fever and up to 100% mortality. The virus is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, where transmission is propagated through both wild and domestic pig reservoirs. However in 2007 contaminated meat products from E. Africa led to the introduction of the virus into the Caucasus region of Georgia and Russia. Inadequate control of the outbreak resulted in the establishment of endemic infection.
Importantly, since 2007 the virus has disseminated westwards via meat products and wild boar. Cases have been recently observed in Baltic EU nations and Poland. Due to the highly destructive nature of the virus and the impending risk of infection within EU domestic swine populations, ASFV poses a severe socioeconomic risk to the pork industry. Therefore the development of a successful vaccine is considered to be of immediate and paramount importance. We are working closely with Zoetis Inc. and have developed a genetically modified virus based upon virulent isolates for use as a candidate live attenuated vaccines. This genetically modified virus lacks 10 specific genes thought to be involved in immune modulation (MGF360-9L, 10L, 11L, 12L, 13L, and 14L. MGF505-1R, 2R, 3R, and 4R). This project aims to elucidate the mechanism of action of these specific genes, and why their removal or truncation from the viral genome confers results in attenuation of virus and induction of protection against challenge. BBSRC Priority Areas: Animal Health
An outbreak of ASF has been detected in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, according to China’s agriculture ministry. There were 343 mortalities among the 432 pigs at a farm in the Batou city region. Local authorities immediately initiated emergency response to cull and dispose of the remaining animals, and to ban movements of pigs in the area. This outbreak brings the country’s total so far this year to 10, all in domestic pigs. Around 2,100 animals were directly impacted by these outbreaks.
China’s first ASF outbreak was reported in August of 2018. Up to mid-February of 2021, there had been 190 outbreaks in 32 of the country’s regions (including Hong Kong), according to the OIE. Directly impacted by these outbreaks have been just over 400,000 pigs.
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The Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) — in collaboration with a US vaccine company, and Zoetiz, a global animal health company — has started initial vaccine trials in areas previously affected by the dreaded African Swine Fever (ASF). Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the ASF vaccine trials started on April 23, 2021, with 10 commercial swine farms participating. “The vaccine trials complement our ongoing ‘Bantay ASF sa Barangay’ program. We consider it as the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ that would free us from this dark episode that adversely affected our swine industry, and pork supply and prices,” Secretary Dar said.
“Once proven effective, the ASF vaccine will serve as a potent tool, complementing our joint efforts with the LGUs, private sector, and hog raisers to effectively control, contain and manage the spread of the ASF, thus paving way for the industry’s faster recovery,” the DA chief added. The ASF vaccine trials will be conducted and monitored by the DA-BAI personnel and veterinarians for 84 days, in line with the current protocols set by the government technical working group, the vaccine manufacturer and Zoetis Philippines, Inc. Zoetis is the major collaborator of the experimental new vaccine for ASF, which has prevented the virus from killing pigs in an early trial in other countries.
“We are now coordinating with the provincial veterinarians on the conduct of the vaccine trials to ensure successful implementation. Likewise, our BAI veterinarians have already undergone orientation and are ready for deployment,” Secretary Dar said. “The trials in the respective farms will depend on the agreement by the concerned parties, the availability of trial animals, schedule of the farm and BAI veterinarian and Zoetis representatives,” he added.
The DA chief is hopeful that the vaccine trials yield positive results to put an end to the disease that crippled the country’s hog industry, causing loss of livelihood and incomes to backyard and commercial raisers, substantially reducing hog population and supply, and pushing pork prices to unprecedented levels, to the detriment of consumers
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