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ASF vaccine development is a tough order

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Jennifer Shike

Although the race to develop an African swine fever (ASF) vaccine in China is slow, it is still moving forward. On Monday’s AgriTalk with Chip Flory, Dan Rock, professor of pathobiology at the University of Illinois, said it’s good to have confirmation that the ASF virus isolated in China matches up with the virus in Europe.

“The virus in China is very similar to the viruses that have been in the in the Russian Federation and are also moving in Eastern Europe and pressing up against Western Europe,” said Rock, a former research leader at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. “It’s really basically the same virus that appears to have spread massively throughout Eastern Europe and Asia.”

Although this doesn’t mean a vaccine for ASF will be happening anytime soon, it is information to build on.

“An ASF vaccine is a pretty tough order scientifically because it’s very complex virus,” Rock said.

Flory questioned how long it will take researchers to develop a vaccine.

“Scientists are kind of conservative by nature,” Rock said. “So they’re not going to come out and say, ‘I think we’re real close.’ I don’t think it’s going to take 10 years. I think it’s a matter of getting serious about it and having the right kind of research investment with a strategic vision to move it along in a more rapid way.”

He said the situation has changed significantly with the virus moving into moving into China.

“It’s a huge threat, not just to China, but I think it’s a huge threat to the U.S. as well. We’re going to have to get serious and really think about the research investment it’s going to take to give us the tools for detection, response and recovery should it be introduced into the U.S.,” Rock said. “African swine fever is out of Africa for good.”

Farm Journal’s Pork, 1 April 2019

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