If you didn’t already know, African swine fever (ASF) is currently ravaging large sums of pigs in the Eastern hemisphere. Wild boars tend to pick up the virus as ticks bite them, and given just how contagious it tends to be, it doesn’t seem to take much for one infected pig to pass its deadly disease onto others.
The circumstances are now recognized worldwide as an issue, and in response to the situation, pork production has become severely handicapped throughout Asia. With hundreds of thousands of pigs succumbing to ASF, you might come to expect that scientists are rushing to devise a viable solution, and you’d be right…
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In a paper published just this week in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, scientists note that they’ve developed an oral vaccine that seems to be effective in wild boar. More specifically, it makes the said boar up to 92% less likely to contract ASF despite how often it might be exposed to the virus in the wild.
"African swine fever is of enormous concern to the pig industry," explained study co-author Dr. Jose Angel Barasona from the VISAVET Health Surveillance Centre.
"Our study demonstrates the effectiveness of the first oral vaccine against this disease on Eurasian wild boar. Overall, we demonstrate that oral immunization of wild boar conferred 92% protection against a highly pathogenic strain of African Swine Fever, which is currently circulating in Asia and Europe."
Wild boar vaccination is a tried and true method that has effectively prevented the spread of other swine fever strains in the past. With that in mind, researchers hope to deploy similar tactics that will prevent African swine fever from bouncing from one population to the next; doing so protects not only helpless wild animals but also valuable livestock.
In testing, the researchers found that their oral vaccine was just as transmittable as the virus itself, which means that vaccinated animals can pass their immunity to others with contact. This finding was quite good, as it means that large numbers of wild boars can be protected with fewer resources, cutting the costs associated with the vaccinations in the process.
"The 'shedding' of this vaccine might help amplify vaccination coverage, reducing the need for expensive production and large-scale administration of vaccine in the field," Barasona added. "If the safety of the vaccine can be established, then it may help mitigate the uncontrolled spread of African Swine Fever across Europe and Asia."
With a little luck, perhaps we’ll see a successful deployment of this vaccination and the swine fever issue can be curbed. Then again, only time and testing will tell…