MANSFIELD, CONN. — The spread of African swine fever (ASF) from its origins in sub-Saharan Africa to other continents has posed as a challenge and concern for US agriculture, leading the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to work with scientists to develop a vaccine. With the help of the University of Connecticut (UConn), a “promising” vaccine has been created.

While the virus has not been discovered in the United States, animal health officials have recommended and most pork producers have implemented preventative biosecurity practices to ensure the protection of food safety.

USDA and UConn created a vaccine candidate, referred to as “ASF-G-ΔMGF,” that was recently licensed for commercial development by animal health company Zoetis.

“Over the years, people have tried live attenuated vaccines, they have tried killed vaccines, they have tried different cocktails of proteins that are expressed by the virus as a mechanism of protection,” said Guillermo Risatti, UConn professor of pathobiology. “But it never materialized into some sort of candidate.”

Risatti worked with USDA scientists Manuel Borca and Douglas Gladue to develop the vaccine candidate.

“That is a major problem when you don’t have a vaccine or ways to control the spread of the disease,” Risatti said. “You will rely only on trying to slow down the movement of animals, but that’s very difficult. Animals are constantly being moved to market or formally or informally from one neighbor to another, and that’s when you see these diseases spreading very fast.”

After testing the vaccine on wild boars by using edible bait containing the vaccine and on domestic pigs through an injection into the muscle, researchers from Zoetis and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) in Germany have found immunization efficacy against ASF.

“Overall, our findings confirm that ‘ASF-G-ΔMGF’ is a most promising vaccine candidate that could find its way into well-organized and controlled immunization campaigns,” Zoetis and FLI researchers said in a peer-reviewed article in the journal Pathogens.

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