Special Issue "African Swine Fever Virus 2021"

A special issue of Viruses (ISSN 1999-4915). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Viruses".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 20 December 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Manuel Borca
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Guest Editor
USDA ARS Plum Island Animal Disease Center, Greenport, USA
Interests: All aspects of ASFV research
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In the last few years, African swine fever (ASF) has become one of the most feared infectious diseases affecting swine production and the commercialization of swine derived products in vast geographical areas of the world. The etiological agent, ASF virus (ASFV), is a large, structurally complex virus with a double stranded DNA genome encoding for over 150 proteins. Although the disease was originally identified in the 1920s, research on ASF has dramatically intensified in just the last ten years. This Special Issue of Viruses will be devoted to covering different aspects of ASFV research. Special emphasis will be placed on reports focused on molecular mechanisms mediating virus virulence, virus pathogenesis in domestic and wild swine, host immune response involved in protection against infection, development of different types of experimental vaccines, molecular basis of virus replication, virus structure, and novel/improved diagnostic methodologies. Contributions will be accepted in the format of original research reports, reviews covering very specific aspects of ASF research, and opinion articles. This Special Issue of Viruses expects to offer scientists working in ASF a forum to share high quality research in a variety of thematic areas of ASF research.

Dr. Manuel Borca
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • ASF
  • ASFV
  • virus virulence
  • pathogenesis in natural hosts
  • protective host immune response
  • vaccine development
  • virus replication
  • virus structure/morphogenesis
  • ASF diagnostic

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Article
Meat Exudate for Detection of African Swine Fever Virus Genomic Material and Anti-ASFV Antibodies
Viruses 2021, 13(9), 1744; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13091744 - 01 Sep 2021
Viewed by 681
Abstract
African swine fever (ASF) is one of the most important viral diseases of pigs caused by the ASF virus (ASFV). The virus is highly stable over a wide range of temperatures and pH and can survive in meat and meat products for several [...] Read more.
African swine fever (ASF) is one of the most important viral diseases of pigs caused by the ASF virus (ASFV). The virus is highly stable over a wide range of temperatures and pH and can survive in meat and meat products for several months, leading to long-distance transmission of ASF. Whole blood, serum, and organs from infected pigs are used routinely as approved sample types in the laboratory diagnosis of ASF. However, these sample types may not always be available. Here, we investigated meat exudate as an alternative sample type for the detection of ASFV-specific nucleic acids and antibodies. Pigs were infected with various ASFV strains: the highly virulent ASFV Malawi LIL 18/2 strain, the moderately-virulent ASFV Estonia 2014 strain, or the low-virulent ASFV OURT/88/3 strain. The animals were euthanized on different days post-infection (dpi), and meat exudates were collected and tested for the presence of ASFV-specific nucleic acids and antibodies. Animals infected with the ASFV Malawi LIL 18/2 developed severe clinical signs and succumbed to the infection within seven dpi, while pigs infected with ASFV Estonia 2014 also developed clinical signs but survived longer, with a few animals seroconverting before succumbing to the ASFV infection or being euthanized as they reached humane endpoints. Pigs infected with ASFV OURT/88/3 developed transient fever and seroconverted without mortality. ASFV genomic material was detected in meat exudate from pigs infected with ASFV Malawi LIL 18/2 and ASFV Estonia 2014 at the onset of viremia but at a lower amount when compared to the corresponding whole blood samples. Low levels of ASFV genomic material were detected in the whole blood of ASFV OURT/88/3-infected pigs, and no ASFV genomic material was detected in the meat exudate of these animals. Anti-ASFV antibodies were detected in the serum and meat exudate derived from ASFV OURT/88/3-infected pigs and in some of the samples derived from the ASFV Estonia 2014-infected pigs. These results indicate that ASFV genomic material and anti-ASFV antibodies can be detected in meat exudate, indicating that this sample can be used as an alternative sample type for ASF surveillance when routine sample types are unavailable or are not easily accessible. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Article
Rapid Extraction and Detection of African Swine Fever Virus DNA Based on Isothermal Recombinase Polymerase Amplification Assay
Viruses 2021, 13(9), 1731; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13091731 - 31 Aug 2021
Viewed by 675
Abstract
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is the causative agent of a deadly disease in pigs and is spread rapidly across borders. Samples collected from suspected cases must be sent to the reference laboratory for diagnosis using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In this study, [...] Read more.
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is the causative agent of a deadly disease in pigs and is spread rapidly across borders. Samples collected from suspected cases must be sent to the reference laboratory for diagnosis using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In this study, we aimed to develop a simple DNA isolation step and real-time recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA) assay for rapid detection of ASFV. RPA assay based on the p72 encoding B646L gene of ASFV was established. The assays limit of detection and cross-reactivity were investigated. Diagnostic performance was examined using 73 blood and serum samples. Two extraction approaches were tested: silica-column-based extraction method and simple non-purification DNA isolation (lysis buffer and heating, 70 °C for 20 min). All results were compared with well-established real-time PCR. In a field deployment during a disease outbreak event in Uganda, 20 whole blood samples were tested. The assay’s analytical sensitivity was 3.5 DNA copies of molecular standard per µL as determined by probit analysis on eight independent assay runs. The ASFV RPA assay only detected ASFV genotypes. Compared to real-time PCR, RPA diagnostic sensitivity and specificity were 100%. Using the heating/lysis buffer extraction procedure, ASFV-RPA revealed better tolerance to inhibitors than real-time PCR (97% and 38% positivity rate, respectively). In Uganda, infected animals were identified before the appearance of fever. The ASFV-RPA assay is shown to be as sensitive and specific as real-time PCR. Moreover, the combination of the simple extraction protocol allows its use at the point of need to improve control measures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Article
African Swine Fever Virus CD2v Protein Induces β-Interferon Expression and Apoptosis in Swine Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells
Viruses 2021, 13(8), 1480; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13081480 - 28 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 870
Abstract
African swine fever (ASF) is a hemorrhagic disease of swine characterized by massive lymphocyte depletion in lymphoid tissues due to the apoptosis of B and T cells, a process likely triggered by factors released or secreted by infected macrophages. ASFV CD2v (EP402R) has [...] Read more.
African swine fever (ASF) is a hemorrhagic disease of swine characterized by massive lymphocyte depletion in lymphoid tissues due to the apoptosis of B and T cells, a process likely triggered by factors released or secreted by infected macrophages. ASFV CD2v (EP402R) has been implicated in viral virulence and immunomodulation in vitro; however, its actual function(s) remains unknown. We found that CD2v expression in swine PK15 cells induces NF-κB-dependent IFN-β and ISGs transcription and an antiviral state. Similar results were observed for CD2v protein treated swine PBMCs and macrophages, the major ASFV target cell. Notably, treatment of swine PBMCs and macrophages with CD2v protein induced apoptosis. Immunoprecipitation and colocalization studies revealed that CD2v interacts with CD58, the natural host CD2 ligand. Additionally, CD58 knockdown in cells or treatment of cells with an NF-κB inhibitor significantly reduced CD2v-mediated NF-κB activation and IFN-β induction. Further, antibodies directed against CD2v inhibited CD2v-induced NF-κB activation and IFN-β transcription in cells. Overall, results indicate that ASFV CD2v activates NF-κB, which induces IFN signaling and apoptosis in swine lymphocytes/macrophages. We propose that CD2v released from infected macrophages may be a significant factor in lymphocyte apoptosis observed in lymphoid tissue during ASFV infection in pigs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Article
Growth Kinetics and Protective Efficacy of Attenuated ASFV Strain Congo with Deletion of the EP402 Gene
Viruses 2021, 13(7), 1259; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13071259 - 28 Jun 2021
Viewed by 880
Abstract
African swine fever (ASF) is an emerging disease threat to the swine industry worldwide. There is no vaccine against ASF, and progress is hindered by a lack of knowledge concerning the extent of ASFV strain diversity and the viral antigens conferring type-specific protective [...] Read more.
African swine fever (ASF) is an emerging disease threat to the swine industry worldwide. There is no vaccine against ASF, and progress is hindered by a lack of knowledge concerning the extent of ASFV strain diversity and the viral antigens conferring type-specific protective immunity in pigs. We have previously demonstrated that homologous ASFV serotype-specific proteins CD2v (EP402R) and/or C-type lectin are required for protection against challenge with the virulent ASFV strain Congo (Genotype I, Serogroup 2), and we have identified T-cell epitopes on CD2v which may be associated with serotype-specific protection. Here, using a cell-culture adapted derivative of the ASFV strain Congo (Congo-a) with specific deletion of the EP402R gene (ΔCongoCD2v) in swine vaccination/challenge experiments, we demonstrated that deletion of the EP402R gene results in the failure of ΔCongoCD2v to induce protection against challenge with the virulent strain Congo (Congo-v). While ΔCongoCD2v growth kinetics in COS-1 cells and primary swine macrophage culture were almost identical to parental Congo-a, replication of ΔCongoCD2v in vivo was significantly reduced compared with parental Congo-a. Our data support the idea that the CD2v protein is important for the ability of homologous live-attenuated vaccines to induce protective immunity against the ASFV strain Congo challenge in vivo. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Article
African Swine Fever Virus Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzyme Is an Immunomodulator Targeting NF-κB Activation
Viruses 2021, 13(6), 1160; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13061160 - 17 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 918
Abstract
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is an acute and persistent swine virus with a high economic burden that encodes multiple genes to evade host immune response. In this work, we have revealed that early viral protein UBCv1, the only known conjugating enzyme encoded [...] Read more.
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is an acute and persistent swine virus with a high economic burden that encodes multiple genes to evade host immune response. In this work, we have revealed that early viral protein UBCv1, the only known conjugating enzyme encoded by a virus, modulates innate immune and inflammatory signaling. Transient overexpression of UBCv1 impaired activation of NF-κB and AP-1 transcription factors induced by several agonists of these pathways. In contrast, activation of IRF3 and ISRE signaling upon stimulation with TRIFΔRIP, cGAS/STING or RIG-I-CARD remained unaltered. Experiments aimed at mapping UBCv1 inhibitory activity indicated that this viral protein acts upstream or at the level step of IKKβ. In agreement with this, UBCv1 was able to block p65 nuclear translocation upon cytokine stimulation, a key event in NF-ĸB signaling. Additionally, A549 stably transduced for UBCv1 showed a significant decrease in the levels of NF-ĸB dependent genes. Interestingly, despite the well-defined capacity of UBCv1 to conjugate ubiquitin chains, a mutant disabled for ubiquitylation activity retained similar immunomodulatory activity as the wild-type enzyme, suggesting that the two functions are segregated. Altogether these data suggest that ASFV UBCv1 manipulates the innate immune response targeting the NF-κB and AP-1 pathways and opens new questions about the multifunctionality of this enzyme. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Article
Combined Short and Long-Read Sequencing Reveals a Complex Transcriptomic Architecture of African Swine Fever Virus
Viruses 2021, 13(4), 579; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13040579 - 30 Mar 2021
Viewed by 973
Abstract
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a large DNA virus belonging to the Asfarviridae family. Despite its agricultural importance, little is known about the fundamental molecular mechanisms of this pathogen. Short-read sequencing (SRS) can produce a huge amount of high-precision sequencing reads for [...] Read more.
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a large DNA virus belonging to the Asfarviridae family. Despite its agricultural importance, little is known about the fundamental molecular mechanisms of this pathogen. Short-read sequencing (SRS) can produce a huge amount of high-precision sequencing reads for transcriptomic profiling, but it is inefficient for comprehensively annotating transcriptomes. Long-read sequencing (LRS) can overcome some of SRS’s limitations, but it also has drawbacks, such as low-coverage and high error rate. The limitations of the two approaches can be surmounted by the combined use of these techniques. In this study, we used Illumina SRS and Oxford Nanopore Technologies LRS platforms with multiple library preparation methods (amplified and direct cDNA sequencings and native RNA sequencing) for constructing the ASFV transcriptomic atlas. This work identified many novel transcripts and transcript isoforms and annotated the precise termini of previously described RNAs. This study identified a novel species of ASFV transcripts, the replication origin-associated RNAs. Additionally, we discovered several nested genes embedded into larger canonical genes. In contrast to the current view that the ASFV transcripts are monocistronic, we detected a significant extent of polycistronism, although a large proportion of these transcripts are expressed in low abundance. A multifaceted meshwork of transcriptional overlaps was also discovered. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Article
African Swine Fever Virus Structural Protein p17 Inhibits Cell Proliferation through ER Stress—ROS Mediated Cell Cycle Arrest
Viruses 2021, 13(1), 21; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13010021 - 24 Dec 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1266
Abstract
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a highly pathogenic large DNA virus that causes African swine fever (ASF) in domestic pigs and wild boars. The p17 protein, encoded by the D117L gene, is a major transmembrane protein of the capsid and the inner [...] Read more.
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a highly pathogenic large DNA virus that causes African swine fever (ASF) in domestic pigs and wild boars. The p17 protein, encoded by the D117L gene, is a major transmembrane protein of the capsid and the inner lipid envelope. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of p17 on cell proliferation and the underlying mechanisms of action. The effects of p17 on cell proliferation, cell cycle, apoptosis, oxidative stress, and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress have been examined in 293T, PK15, and PAM cells, respectively. The results showed that p17 reduced cell proliferation by causing cell cycle arrest at G2/M phase. Further, p17-induced oxidative stress and increased the level of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS). Decreasing the level of ROS partially reversed the cell cycle arrest and prevented the decrease of cell proliferation induced by p17 protein. In addition, p17-induced ER stress, and alleviating ER stress decreased the production of ROS and prevented the decrease of cell proliferation induced by p17. Taken together, this study suggests that p17 can inhibit cell proliferation through ER stress and ROS-mediated cell cycle arrest, which might implicate the involvement of p17 in ASF pathogenesis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Article
Live Attenuated African Swine Fever Viruses as Ideal Tools to Dissect the Mechanisms Involved in Cross-Protection
Viruses 2020, 12(12), 1474; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v12121474 - 21 Dec 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1075
Abstract
African swine fever (ASF) has become the major threat for the global swine industry. Furthermore, the epidemiological situation of African swine fever virus (ASFV) in some endemic regions of Sub-Saharan Africa is worse than ever, with multiple virus strains and genotypes currently circulating [...] Read more.
African swine fever (ASF) has become the major threat for the global swine industry. Furthermore, the epidemiological situation of African swine fever virus (ASFV) in some endemic regions of Sub-Saharan Africa is worse than ever, with multiple virus strains and genotypes currently circulating in a given area. Despite the recent advances on ASF vaccine development, there are no commercial vaccines yet, and most of the promising vaccine prototypes available today have been specifically designed to fight the genotype II strains currently circulating in Europe, Asia, and Oceania. Previous results from our laboratory have demonstrated the ability of BA71∆CD2, a recombinant LAV lacking CD2v, to confer protection against homologous (BA71) and heterologous genotype I (E75) and genotype II (Georgia2007/01) ASFV strains, both belonging to same clade (clade C). Here, we extend these results using BA71∆CD2 as a tool trying to understand ASFV cross-protection, using phylogenetically distant ASFV strains. We first observed that five out of six (83.3%) of the pigs immunized once with 106 PFU of BA71∆CD2 survived the tick-bite challenge using Ornithodoros sp. soft ticks naturally infected with RSA/11/2017 strain (genotype XIX, clade D). Second, only two out of six (33.3%) survived the challenge with Ken06.Bus (genotype IX, clade A), which is phylogenetically more distant to BA71∆CD2 than the RSA/11/2017 strain. On the other hand, homologous prime-boosting with BA71∆CD2 only improved the survival rate to 50% after Ken06.Bus challenge, all suffering mild ASF-compatible clinical signs, while 100% of the pigs immunized with BA71∆CD2 and boosted with the parental BA71 virulent strain survived the lethal challenge with Ken06.Bus, without almost no clinical signs of the disease. Our results confirm that cross-protection is a multifactorial phenomenon that not only depends on sequence similarity. We believe that understanding this complex phenomenon will be useful for designing future vaccines for ASF-endemic areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Review

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Review
African Swine Fever in Wild Boar in Europe—A Review
Viruses 2021, 13(9), 1717; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13091717 - 30 Aug 2021
Viewed by 784
Abstract
The introduction of genotype II African swine fever (ASF) virus, presumably from Africa into Georgia in 2007, and its continuous spread through Europe and Asia as a panzootic disease of suids, continues to have a huge socio-economic impact. ASF is characterized by hemorrhagic [...] Read more.
The introduction of genotype II African swine fever (ASF) virus, presumably from Africa into Georgia in 2007, and its continuous spread through Europe and Asia as a panzootic disease of suids, continues to have a huge socio-economic impact. ASF is characterized by hemorrhagic fever leading to a high case/fatality ratio in pigs. In Europe, wild boar are especially affected. This review summarizes the currently available knowledge on ASF in wild boar in Europe. The current ASF panzootic is characterized by self-sustaining cycles of infection in the wild boar population. Spill-over and spill-back events occur from wild boar to domestic pigs and vice versa. The social structure of wild boar populations and the spatial behavior of the animals, a variety of ASF virus (ASFV) transmission mechanisms and persistence in the environment complicate the modeling of the disease. Control measures focus on the detection and removal of wild boar carcasses, in which ASFV can remain infectious for months. Further measures include the reduction in wild boar density and the limitation of wild boar movements through fences. Using these measures, the Czech Republic and Belgium succeeded in eliminating ASF in their territories, while the disease spread in others. So far, no vaccine is available to protect wild boar or domestic pigs reliably against ASF. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Review
African Swine Fever Virus as a Difficult Opponent in the Fight for a Vaccine—Current Data
Viruses 2021, 13(7), 1212; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13071212 - 23 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1049
Abstract
Prevention and control of African swine fever virus (ASFV) in Europe, Asia, and Africa seem to be extremely difficult in view of the ease with which it spreads, its high resistance to environmental conditions, and the many obstacles related to the introduction of [...] Read more.
Prevention and control of African swine fever virus (ASFV) in Europe, Asia, and Africa seem to be extremely difficult in view of the ease with which it spreads, its high resistance to environmental conditions, and the many obstacles related to the introduction of effective specific immunoprophylaxis. Biological properties of ASFV indicate that the African swine fever (ASF) pandemic will continue to develop and that only the implementation of an effective and safe vaccine will ensure a reduction in the spread of ASFV. At present, vaccines against ASF are not available. The latest approaches to the ASFV vaccine’s design concentrate on the development of either modified live vaccines by targeted gene deletion from different isolates or subunit vaccines. The construction of an effective vaccine is hindered by the complex structure of the virus, the lack of an effective continuous cell line for the isolation and propagation of ASFV, unpredictable and stain-specific phenotypes after the genetic modification of ASFV, a risk of reversion to virulence, and our current inability to differentiate infected animals from vaccinated ones. Moreover, the design of vaccines intended for wild boars and oral administration is desirable. Despite several obstacles, the design of a safe and effective vaccine against ASFV seems to be achievable. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Other

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Brief Report
Deletion of the K145R and DP148R Genes from the Virulent ASFV Georgia 2007/1 Isolate Delays the Onset, but Does Not Reduce Severity, of Clinical Signs in Infected Pigs
Viruses 2021, 13(8), 1473; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13081473 - 28 Jul 2021
Viewed by 745
Abstract
African swine fever virus causes a frequently fatal disease of domestic pigs and wild boar that has a high economic impact across 3 continents. The large double-stranded DNA genome codes for approximately 160 proteins. Many of these have unknown functions and this hinders [...] Read more.
African swine fever virus causes a frequently fatal disease of domestic pigs and wild boar that has a high economic impact across 3 continents. The large double-stranded DNA genome codes for approximately 160 proteins. Many of these have unknown functions and this hinders our understanding of the virus and host interactions. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the role of two virus proteins, K145R and DP148R, in virus replication in macrophages and virulence in pigs. To do this, the DP148R gene, alone or in combination with the K145R gene, was deleted from the virulent genotype II Georgia 2007/1 isolate. Neither of these deletions reduced the ability of the viruses to replicate in porcine macrophages compared to the parental wild-type virus. Pigs infected with GeorgiaΔDP148R developed clinical and post-mortem signs and high viremia, typical of acute African swine fever, and were culled on day 6 post-infection. The additional deletion of the K145R gene delayed the onset of clinical signs and viremia in pigs by 3 days, but pigs showed signs of acute African swine fever and were culled on days 10 or 13 post-infection. The results show that the deletion of DP148R did not attenuate the genotype II Georgia 2007/1 isolate, contrary to the results obtained with the genotype I Benin97/1 isolate. Additional deletion of the K145R gene delayed clinical signs, but infected pigs reached the humane endpoint. The deletion of additional genes would be required to attenuate the virus. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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Opinion
Thoughts on African Swine Fever Vaccines
Viruses 2021, 13(5), 943; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/v13050943 - 20 May 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1302
Abstract
African swine fever (ASF) is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease of domestic swine with mortality rates approaching 100%. Devastating ASF outbreaks and continuing epidemics starting in the Caucasus region and now in the Russian Federation, Europe, China, and other parts of Southeast Asia [...] Read more.
African swine fever (ASF) is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease of domestic swine with mortality rates approaching 100%. Devastating ASF outbreaks and continuing epidemics starting in the Caucasus region and now in the Russian Federation, Europe, China, and other parts of Southeast Asia (2007 to date) highlight its significance. ASF strain Georgia-07 and its derivatives are now endemic in extensive regions of Europe and Asia and are “out of Africa” forever, a situation that poses a grave if not an existential threat to the swine industry worldwide. While our current concern is Georgia-07, other emerging ASFV strains will threaten for the indefinite future. Economic analysis indicates that an ASF outbreak in the U.S. would result in approximately $15 billion USD in losses, assuming the disease is rapidly controlled and the U.S. is able to reenter export markets within two years. ASF’s potential to spread and become endemic in new regions, its rapid and efficient transmission among pigs, and the relative stability of the causative agent ASF virus (ASFV) in the environment all provide significant challenges for disease control. Effective and robust methods, including vaccines for ASF response and recovery, are needed immediately. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue African Swine Fever Virus 2021)
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