US says it has developed 'promising' African swine fever vaccine

Pigs seen in a facility at a village near Warsaw, Poland, on April 10, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Government and academic experts in the US have developed a vaccine against African swine fever that's proved 100 per cent, according to the American Society for Microbiology.

Both high and low doses of the vaccine, developed from a genetically modified prior strain of the virus, were effective in pigs when they were challenged 28 days after inoculation, the report said.

"This new experimental ASFV vaccine shows promise, and offers complete protection against the current strain currently producing outbreaks throughout Eastern Europe and Asia," said Douglas Gladue, the principal investigator at the US Department of Agriculture, which developed the vaccine.

The virus has been most devastating for China, the world's biggest producer of pork which first reported a case about 1 1/2 years ago. Since then hog herds have been decimated, with its impact ricocheting across global agricultural markets. Scientists from China to the US have been racing to develop a vaccine for the virus, which is deadly to pigs but isn't known to harm humans.

There is no commercially available vaccine against the disease, which was first discovered more than 100 years ago in Africa. In its most virulent form, the virus can be 100 per cent lethal. It infects pigs and wild boars, and outbreaks has been found in eastern Europe, Russia, and across Asia including Vietnam and South Korea.

Despite 50 years of research, scientists haven't managed to develop a vaccine that's safe and effective against African swine fever. In China, reports of unauthorised and experimental vaccines surfaced last year, raising fears that its use could compound the problem.

Research into the vaccine started after a 2007 outbreak of the virus in the Republic of Georgia, the USDA's Gladue said. More work needs to be done to meet regulatory requirements ahead of commercialisation, he said.

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