African swine fever

African swine fever

African swine fever: A sub-Saharan epidemic and a global pork crisis

China, the world’s largest pork consumer has seen a 40% rise in the price of pork meat in the last year. This has been caused by the fatal pig and wild boar disease, African swine fever (ASF) with 100% fatality rate. ASF is a transboundary disease which is highly contagious and has the potential for rapid spread causing serious socio-economic and public health consequences. 

770 million pigs in the world, China has 400 million of them

The disease that started off in the early 1910 in Africa has found its way into Asia and more recently into Europe. In Asia it is present in six countries, namely, Cambodia, China, DPR Korea, Lao PDR, Mongolia and Vietnam and the Philippines.  In Europe, it has affected ten countries with Slovakia being the latest country to report the disease. This disease which has been around for nearly over 100 years is spreading widely indicating that global eradication strategies face challenges which are discussed below.  The more imminent threat is to food security and livelihoods of millions of households in these regions that depend on pig farming. 

No vaccines or treatment is available for ASF

In the past many countries have had success with eradicating the disease, for example, in 1957 the disease was introduced into Portugal and was rapidly eradicated but a second introduction occurred in 1960 which spread into Europe and crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean and Brazil. In 2007 when the disease found its way into east Europe, the Czech Republic successfully managed to keep the outbreaks under control and earlier this year, the country again was declared free of ASF. Belgium is successfully trying to eradicate the virus from its wild boar population, unfortunately, new outbreaks make this difficult. 

Regions with soft ticks and wild boars make it impossible to eradicate the disease 


ILRI’s role in ASF vaccine development

While this disease has been around for 100 years, it was only considered as a high priority for researchers until it turned up last year in China, home to half the world’s pig population. As the world races to find a vaccine for ASF, it is worth knowing that they might not work across the globe where strains might vary.  Globally, scientists are working to weakening the virus as opposed to using a dead one, and others are working on genetically modifying the virus to remove certain genes. Regardless, extensive testing is necessary to ensure that vaccines don’t have an unintended side effect. For example, in 1960s Spain and Portugal tested a vaccine, the treated pigs seemed fine at first but then lesions broke up on their skin, and joints locked up due to arthritis. 

Here at ILRI, Lucilla Stienna and her team are working on xxxxxx some of the partners include xxxxx

ILRI’s role on understanding the epidemiology (to be filled out by Ekta)