November 19, 2019


Australian scientists developing vaccine for African swine fever


Scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said a possible African swine fever (ASF) vaccine could be developed in five years, reported ABC Australia.


It is difficult to develop a vaccine for ASF as the disease is so complex and large that scientists have spent 60 years working on a vaccine with no breakthrough, said Dr. David Williams, CSIRO director.


Because of the virus' properties, deleting specific genes doesn't affect it and ASF remains viral and infectious to swine, he added.


Dr. Williams said identifying an ASF outbreak and responding immediately to new cases - using traditional methods such as swine culling, burying or disposing infected swine carcasses safely and disinfecting farms, will be key to eradicating ASF without a vaccine. 


Dr. Trevor Drew, director of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) said the rampant spread of ASF in Asia means the disease cannot be eliminated without a vaccine.


To prepare for the possibility of ASF spreading to Australia, Dr. Drew will attend an outbreak simulation with authorities to find out how prepared the country is for a possible outbreak.


He is concerned about the effects of an ASF outbreak to small-scale farmers, who may not know about ASF and there may be flaws that cause the spread of the disease further in Australia.


Dr. Drew said there is a possibility ASF will largely spread among Australia's estimated 25 million wild boar population, which would make the disease harder to manage.


AAHL researchers are also studying if Australian ticks could carry ASF, as a similar tick species in Africa was one of the causes of ASF spreading in that region. 


Scientists from Southeast Asia have been undergoing training at AAHL from top biosafety experts. Dr. Sri Handayani Irianingsih, a virologist from Indonesia said they are preparing for a possible ASF outbreak, with ASF diagnosis tools ready to assist farmers to eliminate and manage ASF.


-      ABC Australia