China is starting clinical trials for an African swine fever (ASF) vaccine as the disease continues to spread through the world’s largest hog herd.
State-owned Harbin Veterinary Research Institute has discovered two vaccine candidates, proven in laboratory tests to offer immunity to the disease, Reuters reported.
“In the next step, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences will accelerate the progress of pilot and clinical trials, as well as vaccine production,” the report said.
Although several vaccine candidates have already been identified by researchers in other countries, many more steps are required before putting an effective product on the market. There are also at least two strains of the virus circulating in China and a vaccine would be unlikely to protect against both, Reuters reported.
China has only recently begun work on a vaccine as researchers were banned from handling the live virus until the disease was found in the country. Reuters said many experts expect China to license a vaccine more rapidly because of the huge impact of the disease in their country.
Scientists Say Don’t Get Too Excited
Scientists who work on animal vaccines have sounded a note of caution, however, saying that developing and launching an effective vaccine would be difficult.
The quest for an ASF vaccine has been going on for a at least 50 years. It’s no easy feat, because ASF is the largest virus known to man, says Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian at the National Pork Producers Council.
To put it in perspective, a typical virus might have 10 to 12 proteins. ASF has over 150 proteins. Because of its size, it’s difficult to discover which, if any, of those proteins has the antibody that would protect against clinical disease.
On May 21, Greg Ibach, USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said an ASF vaccine could take another eight years during a House livestock and foreign agriculture subcommittee hearing.
ASF is a disease of pigs only and does not affect food safety. For more on ASF, visit porkbusiness.com/ASF for the latest on prevention and the spread of this disease.