Scientists start vaccine trials to curb deaths of pigs from African swine fever

2021-02-23 13:55:46 GMT2021-02-23 21:55:46(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

NAIROBI, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Scientists at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on Tuesday began testing ten vaccine candidates to help reduce deaths of pigs from African swine fever (ASF).

Lucilla Steinaa, principal scientist at ILRI, who is leading the vaccine research, said the vaccine trials are an important first step in managing ASF, and the first anywhere to test a vaccine based on genotype, which circulates in central and east Africa.

"ASF is a highly contagious transboundary disease with a fatality rate of 100 per cent, and there is currently no vaccine or treatment," Steinaa told journalists in Nairobi.

The disease is present in more than 25 countries in Africa, causing enormous disruption to the pork sector, and deterring potential pig farmers.

Scientists have been researching ASF since early 2000. However, there is still some way to go before a vaccine is proven efficacious, safe and approved for use in the field.

According to the scientist, they have used CRISPR technology, a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes, to reduce the time needed to isolate viral mutants from five years to little over a year, accelerating vaccine development.

CRISPR technology allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.

ASF was first detected in early 1910 in Kenya and has since found its way to Asia and Europe. "It is currently present in around a dozen countries across Asia, notably in China, where an outbreak in 2018 is believed to have caused losses of up to 50 per cent among the country's 400 million pigs," she added.

Hussein Abkallo, a scientist and technical lead of the CRISPR-Cas9 at ILRI, said that besides accelerating ASF vaccine development effort, CRISPR technology has significant potential for making vaccines for other livestock pathogens such as, Theileria parva, a parasite that causes East Coast fever, a fatal cattle disease. Enditem

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