USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have identified a new way to detect the presence of live African swine fever (ASF) virus that not only minimizes the need for samples from live animals but also provides easier access to veterinary labs that need to diagnose the virus.
"We have identified a cell-line that can be used to isolate and detect the presence of the live virus," ARS Scientist Douglas Gladue said in a release. "This is a critical breakthrough and a tremendous step for African swine fever virus diagnostics."
Because there are no available vaccines to prevent ASF, outbreak control has often relied on quarantining and removing infected or exposed animals. According to the release, effectively detecting live ASF virus required collecting blood cells from a live donor swine for every diagnostic test because the cells could only be used once.
Researchers said the new cell line can be continuously replicated and frozen to create cells for future use, reducing the number of live donor animals needed. It will also be commercially available to veterinary diagnostic labs that have typically not had access to swine blood cells needed to test for live ASF virus.
ASF outbreaks continue in domestic and wild pigs throughout parts of the world. Since China reported its first outbreak in 2018, the disease has spread rapidly throughout all provinces in China and to other countries in southeast Asia, and most recently India. The current outbreak strain is highly contagious and can cause a high degree of lethality in domestic pigs, leading to widespread and costly losses to the industry.
A study conducted by agricultural economists at Iowa State University estimates that the economic impact of a hypothetical ASF outbreak in the U.S. could cost the swine industry as much as $50 billion over 10 years when factoring in the impact of the loss of pork export markets.
ARS scientists at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in Plum Island, N.Y., are continuing to research ways to control the spread of this deadly virus.
This research, which is highlighted in Viruses, was funded through an interagency agreement with the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Energy and USDA. A provisional patent application for this research was filed in April 2020 and the technology is now available for license, the release said.
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