Deletion of the CD2v gene from the genome of ASFV-Kenya-IX-1033 partially reduces virulence and induces protection in pigs
Infection of pigs with the African swine fever virus (ASFV) leads to a devastating hemorrhagic disease with a high mortality of up to 100%. In this study, a CD2v gene deletion was introduced to a genotype IX virus from East Africa, ASFV-Kenya-IX-1033 (ASFV-Kenya-IX-1033-∆CD2v), to investigate whether this deletion led to reduced virulence in domestic pigs and to see if inoculation with this LA-ASFV could induce protective immunity against parental virus challenge. All pigs inoculated with ASFV-Kenya-IX-1033-ΔCD2v survived inoculation but presented with fever, reduced appetite and lethargy. ASFV genomic copies were detected in only one animal at one time point. Seven out of eight animals survived subsequent challenge with the pathogenic parental strain (87.5%) but had mild to moderate clinical symptoms and had a gross pathology compatible with chronic ASFV infection. All mock-immunised animals developed acute ASF upon challenge with ASFV-Kenya-IX-1033 and were euthanised upon meeting the humane endpoint criteria. ASFV genome copy numbers after challenge were similar in the two groups. ASFV-Kenya-IX-1033-∆CD2v is therefore a useful tool to investigate the development of immunity to ASFV genotype IX, but safety concerns preclude its use as a candidate vaccine without further attenuation.