Kenyan Experts Search for ASF Vaccine

by 5m Editor
16 May 2013, at 8:46am

KENYA - Scientists in Kenya have launched research of a vaccine to be used against African swine fever. The study is still at an early stage where scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are identifying antigens and best-bet delivery systems to be used.

“Research in this area, with the ultimate goal of generating resistant and productive domestic pigs, is just beginning,” said ILRI molecular biologist Dr Richard Bishop.

Daily Nation reports that Dr Bishop said ILRI has just been awarded major funding from BMZ for vaccine development in collaboration with FLI (Riems) Germany to help save the global pig industry that is worth $150 billion.

Africa-wide economic impacts of swine fever are hard to quantify due to a dearth of disease recording, especially as this infection rapidly turns lethal in pig herds and active surveillance for the infection is rare. The prevalence of the disease has thwarted investment in the smallholder pig sector.

The disease is still emerging in Africa and in the last 20 years, it has spread to parts of West Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius and most recently (in 2011) to Chad from Cameroon.

In Uganda, pig numbers have increased to four million today and continue to rise from 100,000 in the 1970s and pork consumption is now close to that of beef.

There were 20 recorded outbreaks of African swine fever in Uganda in 2010 alone.

“This is an underestimate due to a difficulty in diagnosing the disease and under-reporting of livestock diseases,” Dr Bishop said.

Although the absolute total number of pigs kept in Africa remains relatively small (less than 50 million), pig keeping is very profitable for many of Africa’s rural poor, providing a flexible means of generating an income in the right environments.

Dr Bishop noted that experimental live attenuated vaccines already exist, providing proof of concept for the feasibility of developing a recombinant vaccine against this disease.

Scale up production

“These need to be improved for safety and to scale up production before field deployment is authorized,” he added.

No drugs are currently in the pipeline and there exists no commercial sector investment in this.

He noted that more cost-effective prophylactic control through a combination of vaccination, use of genetically resistant pigs and improved management has the potential to both mitigate the impacts of this disease on small-scale farmers in Africa and to reduce the threat to global pork production, and hence global food security.

Further Reading

Find out more information on African swine fever by clicking here.