‘New ASF vaccine gives 100% protection to pigs’

By Pradeep Kumar

NAHARLAGUN, May 21: Scientists of the UK-based Pirbright Institute are a step closer to developing a vital vaccine for African swine fever (ASF), a pig disease that the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has warned could kill a quarter of the world’s pigs, partly due to the absence of a commercially available vaccine.

Their study, published in Vaccines, showed that 100% of pigs immunised with the new vaccine were protected from a lethal dose of ASF virus (ASFV).

The team created what is known as a vectored vaccine by inserting eight strategically selected ASFV genes into a non-harmful virus, known as a vector. Vectors are used to deliver the genes to pig cells where they produce viral proteins that prime the pig immune system to rapidly respond to an ASF infection. The combination of eight virus genes protected pigs from severe disease after challenge with an otherwise fatal strain of ASFV, although clinical signs of disease did develop.

This is the first time that a vectored vaccine has shown a protective effect against ASF. Further development is needed, but if successful, this vaccine would enable the differentiation of infected animals from those that have received a vaccine (DIVA), which would allow vaccination programmes to be established without sacrificing the ability to trade.

ASF continues to spread across Eastern Europe and Asia, resulting in the death of over seven million pigs worldwide in 2019 and disrupting entire trade systems that are intertwined with the pork industry. Without a commercial vaccine, stringent biosecurity measures and the culling of susceptible animals are the only methods available to bring ASF under control.

Dr Chris Netherton, Head of Pirbright’s ASF Vaccinology Group, commented: “Demonstrating that our vaccine has the potential to fully protect pigs against ASF is a huge step in our vaccine development programme. We have already begun work to refine the genes included in the vaccine to improve its effectiveness and provide more protection.”

UK’s chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “This is a very encouraging breakthrough and it means we are one step closer to safeguarding the health of our pigs and the wider industry’s role in global food supply from African swine fever.

“While there has never been an outbreak of ASF in the UK, we are not complacent and already have robust measures in place to protect against animal disease outbreaks. We will also continue to work closely with the UK pig sector to raise awareness of the risks and advise on maintaining high biosecurity standards,” he added.

India had first reported ASF outbreaks from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in both domestic pigs and wild boar as the virus continues its global spread.

According to reporting from Indian media and Swine Web, ASF has killed nearly 2,500 pigs in six districts across Assam and Arunachal Pradesh besides wild boars.

Reports from Indian media suggest that the virus has been present in the country for an extended period before the outbreak was confirmed.

The inputs were taken from The Pig Site, a knowledge sharing platform with premium news, analysis and resources. It supports a sustainable pork industry with expert insight and analysis from across the global pork supply chain with a unique range of reference. It recorded 4,800 lakh searches within 0.66 seconds.

It may be recalled that Agriculture, Horticulture, AH & DD Minister-cum-in-charge Tage Taki had urged the Centre to grant financial package of Rs 1.6 crore in first phase to cull about 4,500 pigs in East Siang and Papum Pare districts infected by outbreak of ASF. Moreover, Assam Govt. had sought one-time financial package of Rs 144 crore from the Centre for the farmers who rear pigs as ASF had already killed 14,919 pigs as published in this daily in its May 17 edition.

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