FFAR and National Pork Board Fund African Swine Fever Research

02:05PM Oct 22, 2019
Pigs at Wakefield Pork web
( Manuel Borca, a veterinary microbiologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), is recognized as an international leader in veterinary virology in foreign animal infectious diseases, specifically African swine fever. )

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the National Pork Board awarded more than $500,000 to research teams at Kansas State University and Iowa State University to study how African swine fever (ASF) virus survives and how to test pigs for the virus.

ASF is a deadly virus that infects both domestic and wild pigs. Although the disease has existed for decades in Africa, recent spread of the virus in Asia and Europe has been causing an upheaval of the global protein industry. 

With 125 million pigs produced in the U.S. annually, the pork industry is doing everything possible to keep the disease out. Currently, no vaccine or treatment exists for ASF, but research is ongoing. 

“There is no time to waste. We must work quickly, and through partnership with the National Pork Board, to drive solutions pork producers can use to detect and manage infected animals if the virus reaches the U.S. This research may be the key to dramatically reducing any potential spread of ASF,” says Sally Rockey, Ph.D., FFAR executive director. “U.S. pork producers are already coping with uncertainty across the entire sector and an outbreak of ASF would devastate American farmers who are already struggling.” 

Research funded in this collaboration includes studies by Kansas State University looking at how the ASF virus survives and continues to infect other animals in various environments. According to a release from FFAR, if scientists understand how the disease spreads, they will be better able to control, or even stop, the spread of this virus. Additional work at Kansas State is developing tests to detect ASF virus. A third project is creating a diagnostic test to quickly test entire herds for ASF. 
Iowa State University researchers is determining how to best identify foreign animal diseases at low prevalence in large commercial pens using oral fluid samples. This test would allow farmers to string a rope in the pen and when the pigs naturally chew on the rope, the rope can then be tested to detect for traces of targeted viruses, the release said. 

By understanding the survivability mechanisms of the virus and identifying strategies to keep it out of the country, researchers will be better prepared if the virus does reach the U.S. 
“We remain committed to investing Pork Checkoff funds in strategic ways, such as this collaboration to find new ways to protect our domestic swine herd from foreign animal disease threats,” says David Newman, president of the National Pork Board and a producer representing Arkansas. “Understanding how African swine fever survives can help us create better techniques for controlling the spread of this costly virus and reduce the odds of a domestic outbreak.”
ASF does not affect human health, but it threatens the $20 billion-dollar U.S. swine industry and the 550,000 American jobs created by the industry. FFAR’s grant is being matched by funding from the National Pork Board, Cargill, Kemin, Purina Animal Nutrition and Kansas State University for a total investment of $535,780. 

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