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Scientists step up African swine fever vaccine research

Scientists around the world have stepped up efforts to develop vaccines to protect pigs from African swine fever.

21 November 2019, at 10:26am

Vaccine development was discussed last week as part of a Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium 2019 African swine fever panel discussion.

Speaking to Farmscape, Dr Volker Gerdts, the Director and CEO of VIDO-InterVac says there's essentially three different vaccine technologies being pursued.

"The first one and probably the most common one at the moment is live attenuated vaccines so they're using what is called gene deletion," explains Dr Gerdts

"We're making mutants that lack a few genes and so therefore they are attenuated meaning they don't cause disease by themselves and that is a live attenuated vaccine.

"Other technologies that people are working on are safer vaccines. One is, for example, to use what we call sub-unit vaccines.

"If you want, parts of the virus are being used as a vaccine there so there is no live virus in those vaccines. However their ability to induce a good immune response is much weaker than what you would have if you had a live virus.

"Therefore unfortunately at the moment we don't really have any promising vaccines coming up.

"Probably the approach that I personally think will be the most successful approach, and that is something that VIDO and the CFIA has been working on for a number of years with partners in Africa, is using viral vectors.

"There you put a gene of the African swine fever, or a number of them if you want, into another virus that you use then to deliver this. This other virus is a safe virus. Pigs don't get sick from it.

"You can use Adenoviruses or other viruses like that. The advantage is that the immune response you're stimulating is very good but you don't use live African swine fever Virus so it's a safe vaccine.

"We never introduce the virus into the herd."

Dr Gerdts says the government has been highly supportive of VIDO's efforts and hopefully one day we'll have a vaccine that can be safely used in Canada.