Market News & Headlines >> Experimental ASF Vaccine Shows Promise

Government and academic experts in the U.S. have developed a vaccine against the African swine fever virus (ASFV) that appears to be much more effective than previously developed vaccines, according to the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). 

Both high and low doses of the vaccine, developed from a genetically modified prior strain of the virus, were 100% effective in pigs when they were challenged 28 days after inoculation, according to research that appeared last week in the Journal of Virology, an ASM publication. 

“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 USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, which developed the vaccine. However, more work needs to be done to meet regulatory requirements for commercialization, he noted, in a press release on the ASM website, dated Jan. 23. The release did not offer an estimate of how long the approval process might take. 

There is currently no commercially available vaccine against ASFV, which has been devastating the swine industry in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. ASFV is highly contagious and often lethal to domestic and wild pigs. Outbreaks have been quelled—more or less— “by animal quarantine and slaughter,” according to the report. 

The virus has been most devastating for China, the world’s largest pork producer, which first reported a case in August of 2018. Since then China’s hog herd has declined by nearly 50%.

Research into the vaccine was motivated by a 2007 outbreak of African swine fever in the Republic of Georgia, said Gladue. “This was the first outbreak in recent history outside of Africa and Sardinia—where swine fever is endemic—and this particular strain has been highly lethal and highly contagious, spreading quickly to neighboring countries.” This is also a new strain of the virus, now known as ASFV-G (the G stands for Georgia). 

“It’s a huge, huge milestone,”Professor Eric Fevre, chair of veterinary infectious diseases at the University of Liverpool told Bloomberg News. “If this candidate vaccine can be shown to work in clinical trials and in the field, be shown to be safe and be able to get over regulatory approval in the countries where it needs to be used, it could have major benefits for pig production and disease control.”