Initiatives to educate on African swine fever - supported by Thermo Fisher Scientific

Private and public organizations joined efforts in Asia to share knowledge about the control and diagnosis of ASF virus
calendar icon 20 May 2019
clock icon 5 minute read

“I can’t over-emphasize the importance of educational meetings like the ones held in Beijing and Thailand and the need for sharing research, expertise and experiences to control and eradicate ASF,” said Dr Michael Zalunardo, AgriBusiness (Animal Health & Agrigenomics) commercial leader APAC, Thermo Fisher Scientific. “The meetings were enthusiastically attended by representatives from both industry and authorities, including the FAO and OIE, so it was great to see everyone coming together to educate, network and learn from each other.”

More than 110 participants attended the Trust in Animals and Food Safety (TAFS) Forum African Swine Fever (ASF) Scientific Conference held in Beijing on March 26. Thermo Fisher Scientific was present as a supporting TAFS member. On March 28, the Thermo Fisher Scientific Animal Health team organized a similar ASF Scientific Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, hosted by the National Institute of Animal Health (NIAH). The meeting was attended by more than 100 participants from both public and private sector organizations from multiple countries in Southeast Asia.

The Virus – What Is Known

ASF is considered the most complex disease in swine due to its extremely complex molecular structure and genetic variability. According to a presentation by José Sanchez-Vizcaino of the OIE Reference Laboratory for ASF in Spain, the ASF virus contains more than 150 proteins with at least 50 proteins located in the viral particle structure. Replication occurs in the macrophages and the virus encodes using multiple virulence factors. So far, 24 genotypes of the African swine fever virus have been identified. The virus doesn’t produce neutralizing antibodies, but it is highly immunogenic, which is one reason there is no effective vaccine available offering complete protection.

Speakers from both conferences covered topics from the global situation to epidemiology to vaccine research. The TAFS Forum full presentations are available here. Following are meeting highlights.

  • 75% of the world pig population is in areas where ASF is endemic
  • ASFv is not a very transmissible disease; outbreaks usually do not start as an explosive infection, yet the virus goes everywhere through direct, indirect contacts and biological vectors
  • ASFv can be stable for long period of time and even more so when organic matter is present; the virus can survive for 1,000 days in frozen meat and 18 months in blood at 4°C
  • Blood is an important route of transmission
  • Extra biosecurity is essential – fencing should be used for controlling vehicle movement on-farm
  • Biosecurity is an attitude and mindset for every person working on the farm, regardless of their job or title; employees must reconsider the cleanliness of every animal and every single thing that enters the farm property
  • Different ASF isolates are circulating in the field
  • Healthy-looking animals can contain high levels of seropositivity, thus diagnostic tests are necessary to identify them

ASF Diagnostic Solutions

At Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Conference held in Thailand, the Company’s complete diagnostic solution for ASF was presented. Dr Alex Lee, animal health research and development scientist at Thermo Fisher, presented a summary focusing on sample collection and transportation and nucleic acid extraction. Dr Lee described the Applied Biosystems GenoTube Livestock Swab, which has a unique ceramic core enabling rapid drying of the sample and protection from the environment. The easy-to-use swab can be stored and transported at room temperature which offers users a cost saving. He also introduced the MagMAX CORE Nucleic Acid Purification Kit which can be used with more than 14 animal sample matrices and streamlines laboratory workflows.

“Safeguarding the quality of ASF samples is absolutely critical,” explained Dr Lee. “It helps ensure a reliable result in the subsequent PCR reaction with the VetMAX African Swine Fever Virus Detection Kit.”

The VetMAX African Swine Fever Virus Detection Kit
The VetMAX African Swine Fever Virus Detection Kit

The advantages of the VetMAX African Swine Fever Virus Detection Kit were also discussed at the conference. The kit has been used with more than 150,000 ASF tests within Europe and in multiple markets in Asia for clinical confirmation and detection in domestic and wild pigs. The real-time PCR kit has European Union Reference Laboratory validation. Able to detect all ASF virus genotypes, the kit allows users to test pools of up to 10 samples and delivers results in less than 3 hours.

“Both conferences were an important reminder of how important ASF education is. We need to continuously share the knowledge that is being gained by academia, laboratories, on-farm and in the private sector,” said Dr Zalunardo. “Thermo Fisher Scientific was pleased to contribute to the education for African swine fever in the region.”

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Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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