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Limiting the spread of ASF using diagnostics

What perpetuates the spread of African swine fever (ASF) virus in Asia? Most likely, the movement of live animals, says Dave Pyburn, vice president of science and technology with the National Pork Board.

6 December 2019, at 9:23am
Dave Pyburn, VP of science and technology with the National Pork Board, speaks to The Pig Site's Sarah Mikesell

“People are going to want to move animals, and that's what we think is occurring,” Pyburn said. “We don't know for sure, but there probably are some illegal movements occurring. Those illegal movements could be animals or meat products - either of which could contain the virus and further spread the virus.”

Pyburn encourages farmers and those in the industry to abide by designated quarantine controls and movement controls, so the virus isn’t moving from neighbour to neighbour or province to province. The other key is to practice strict biosecurity measures.

Biosecurity is especially important on transport vehicles. ASF virus is a hemorrhagic virus of pigs, it causes septicemia – so everything that comes out of the pig is carrying the virus.

“When we move pigs on trucks, things come out of pigs, so you need to clean and disinfect in between movements,” he said. “We don't think it has been routine for the Chinese to clean between transport or movements. Also, make sure to not track the virus yourself off of the farm onto the next farm. You can track the virus on boots or equipment. Of course, you can track it when moving animals from farm to farm. So be very careful.”

Use of diagnostics in China

China has a lot very small, backyard farms that don't make use of diagnostics. However, they do have some very large commercial herds that efficiently use diagnostics to monitor the health status of their herds.

“We know this because a lot of our US veterinarians are going over to China to [set up] the use of those diagnostics,” he noted. “Where diagnostics would play into not moving the virus, is establishing the safety of those herds. You could use diagnostics to test pigs and products coming off farms to show whether a farm is actually safe to allow movement or not.”

If a new ASF outbreak does occur, an official report goes out to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). PCR is used to test for the virus.

“PCR is the definitive test for ASF,” Pyburn said. “As we look to prepare for maybe having to deal with this in the US, we want to be prepared. I've talked with our officials at USDA and asked what is our testing regime that we'd put into place to show or proof that we have the virus. What I was told is it would be two PCR tests positive and then we'd declare an official positive.”

The use of PCR testing is important because it actually finds the virus, he said.

For more information about swine diagnostics, click here or connect to the Thermo Fisher Scientific Swine Resource Center.