Researchers may be a step closer towards a commercially viable vaccine for African swine fever (ASF).
An article in The South China Morning Post said animal health researchers in northeastern Heilongjiang province have isolated a strain of the African swine fever virus that has been spreading across China.
The sample, taken from the spleen of a pig at a farm in Jiamusi, is providing researchers an opportunity to conduct basic research and pursue possible answers to this devastating disease.
The team from Harbin Veterinary Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences began this project in late October and published their findings on Friday in the journal Emerging Microbes and Infections.
“This is basic research,” said Zhao Dongming, lead researcher at Harbin. “It is the first step, but it is hard to say when can we start to produce a vaccine.”
Dr Liu Renqiang, co-author of the research and assistant researcher at the Harbin institute, said their research showed that a highly virulent ASF virus has entered the pig population in China.
“Now we are doing research with an attenuated [weakened] virus, and after that we need to do an environmental safety evaluation,” Liu said.
According to the article, earlier outbreaks suggested that ASF could be transmitted through contaminated feces and the air. But the Harbin researchers found that blood may have played a role in transmission in the 2018 outbreaks.
It is still not known if the outbreaks were caused by a single or multiple strains of the virus. Research is underway to isolate and analyze more viruses to fully understand how the disease is spreading and how to develop an effective control strategy.