Scientists at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service say they have created a vaccine that is shown to offer protection from African swine fever. 

According to ARS, one of its vaccine candidates protects swine bred in Asia and Europe from the Asian strain of the highly infectious African swine fever virus that has swept through countries on both continents and devastated pork production.

China, the largest pork-producing country in the world, lost more than half of its swine due the virus that has also spread to Vietnam, the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia.

ARS says it is working with the Vietnam-based National Veterinary Joint Stock Company, or NAVETCO, to commercially produce the vaccine. New research shows the vaccine produced immunity in one-third of swine by the second week after vaccination with "full protection in all swine" being observed after the fourth week.

"This is a major step for science and agriculture," said Manuel Borca, an ARS researcher. “We are working carefully to see our vaccine candidate commercialized through the joint efforts of the U.S. government and (NAVETCO).”

NAVETCO is fully owned by Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

"We are excited that our team's research has resulted in promising vaccine results that are able to be repeated on a commercial level, in different pig breeds, and by using a recent (ASF virus)," said Douglas Gladue, another ARS scientist. "This signals that the live attenuated vaccine candidate could play an important role in controlling the ongoing outbreak threatening the global pork supply."

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National Pork Producers Council Chief Veterinarian Liz Wagstrom tells Agri-Pulse that the vaccine breakthrough is welcome news.

“We are encouraged by the great work being done by USDA ARS to develop an ASF vaccine,” Wagstrom said. “Although we do not have ASF in the United States, we look forward to the time when a vaccine will be commercially available and accepted by trading partners worldwide.”

As to whether the vaccine will be effective on the virus strain circulating in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, that’s still unclear, according to ARS spokeswoman Autumn Canaday. More research will be needed, she said.

The fast-spreading swine virus was recently detected in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, spurring USDA efforts to keep it out of the U.S. and its territories Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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