African swine fever (ASF) – the level of hygiene of the pigs influences the course of the disease

Current research of the IVI and the University of Berne shows that the hygiene level of pigs plays a significant role in the course of the disease caused by the ASF virus. These results will help to drive the development of a vaccine.

The FSVO is investing in ASFV research in order to support the veterinary authorities with practical scientific expertise in the fight against the African swine fever virus (ASFV). With the support of the FSVO, the Institute for Virology and Immunology (IVI), together with the University of Berne, is attempting to find out which type of immune response is needed in order to effect a protection for the pigs.

Pigs in a good hygiene condition are less vulnerable

The virulent ASF virus strains that currently circulate in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean lead to death within few days, independently of the hygiene condition of the pigs. Consequently, the immune response of pigs can only be studied with attenuated ASF virus strains. In certain cases, however, such virus strains may also be fatal.

By infecting pigs with an attenuated virus strain the research groups of the IVI and the University of Berne determined that the disease in domestic pigs in very good hygiene and health states was milder and shorter and the pigs were completely cured. In contrast, in pigs from holdings with conventional standard hygiene conditions the disease lasted longer and the mortality rate was 50 %. The analysis of the immune system of the pigs before and during the infection indicated that a higher basic activation of the immune system has significant effects on the degree of severity of the disease and the inflammatory response. The results were obtained under experimental conditions; their practical significance is not yet evident.

Interview with Kemal Mehinagic:

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The hygienic status of pigs plays an important role in the development of the disease.

ASF is spreading throughout the world

African swine fever (ASF) has been spreading throughout the world since 2007. Several cases have been confirmed in Italy earlier this year and very probably, the disease will also reach Switzerland. The disease is highly contagious and in most cases fatal. At present there is neither a treatment nor a vaccine to cure the disease. 

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Last modification 31.08.2022

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