African Swine Fever, though not a prevalent disease in the U.S., has had a major impact on swine populations in other countries. If it were to be discovered here, the consequences would be catastrophic. Export markets would disappear and swine movement would come to a halt. That’s why a new diagnostic tool is good news for pig farmers.

The Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University says African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a serious, highly contagious, viral disease. It can spread rapidly in pig populations by direct or indirect contact, and can persist for long periods in uncooked pig products, facilitating its introduction into new areas.

The virus also can become endemic in feral or wild pigs, states the Center, and transmission cycles between these animals and Ornithodoros ticks can complicate or even prevent eradication.

“ASFV isolates vary in virulence from highly pathogenic strains that cause near 100% mortality to low–virulence isolates that can be difficult to diagnose,” notes the Center, and there is no vaccine or treatment.

Recent outbreaks of ASFV in Eastern Europe have led to the growing need for more accurate diagnostics to help identify and monitor the highly contagious pathogen, and it appears that need is close to being met.

A recent news release reports that “scientists from Thermo Fisher Scientific have presented research data from a new duplex real-time PCR kit that demonstrates the ability to accurately detect the virus with high sensitivity and specificity in animal samples.”

“PCR” stands for “polymerase chain reaction,….

“Results of the Applied Biosystems LSI VetMAX African Swine Fever Virus Detection Kit showed 100% sensitivity in all tested sample materials, including blood, serum and tissues, and 100% specificity,” states the release. “No cross reaction was found with other pathogens, and a serial dilution of the ASFV target sequence led to a limit of detection (LOD) of 16 genome copies per PCR reaction. The kit fulfills all the validation criteria for PCR characteristics…”

“African Swine Fever Virus is a complex virus that can’t be identified from classical swine fever, by either clinical or post-mortem examination,” said Sandrine Moine, R&D manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, first author of the study presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (SVEPM) in March. “Since there is no vaccine or treatment, we felt it was of the utmost importance to develop a highly sensitive and accurate diagnostic test to help monitor and control the disease in animals. The LSI VetMAX African Swine Fever Virus Detection Kit provides a useful tool for early detection of the ASFV in pigs and wild boars as well as to confirm a clinical diagnosis.”