Everyone is searching for an ASF cure
It is a decade now since African Swine Fever has made a comeback by hitting the Russian swine industry and still there is no cure for this disease. Biosecurity was helpful in stopping the spreading of the virus in countries such as the Czech Republic, Belgium and, partially, in Russia but it paid no results in China, Vietnam, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus or in African countries, where it was first observed 50 years ago.
Europe has been affected in the past by the swine disease that is threatening now the balance in the global animal protein market by contracting the world pig herd to a level never seen before but it seems that lessons learned in the '70s and '80s by countries such as Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Italy have been forgotten or inadequate from a globalized perspective of the industry.
The global meat market is going to change in the next years due to the impact that ASF outbreaks are going to have on the Asian swine population and the current situation in the former communist countries in the EU (Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, and the Baltics).
A massive contraction of the world's pig herd that can go on for decades is anticipated by analysts and experts alike for the next 10 to 20 years, considering the risk of the disease becoming endemic in regions like Asia and Eastern Europe.
A vaccine is needed but such a solution could take years to develop, test and put it on the market. For now, China, the US and the EU are the first to invest seriously in developing a vaccine against ASF.
"The example of Russia shows that this virus can persist in a region for more than 10 years. It is true that the pork industry in the regions affected by ASF outbreaks has made remarkable progress in biosecurity but the threat of the disease is still there.
After 50 years since the first ASF outbreak was reported in Africa, we are in a critical point that could lead to a global shift in animal protein consumption. There are some analysts predicting that the Asian crisis of ASF could last for at least 20 years and, in that case, substitutes for pig meat are required not only in this region but across the globe.
An ASF vaccine could be the right solution, even if testing it and getting it into production it could take several years. Until then, the global meat industry should prepare for significant changes in trade and consumption habits in every pork consuming market", believes Dorinel Niculae, project manager EuroMeatNews.
This week, Phibro Animal Health Corporation, an American company, announced that it has made "significant advance in the ongoing development of a vaccine for African swine fever (ASF)" through the identification of immunogenic epitopes and proteins that show strong potential to form the basis for a vaccine against ASF.
"ASF’s decimation of China’s swine population represents not just a crisis for the entire swine husbandry industry but, more importantly, a food security crisis for mankind. The identification of this group of peptides and proteins is a key milestone in Phibro’s pursuit of a solution for this devastating disease. While we still have much work ahead of us, we have made important progress toward reaching that goal, and we take pride in potentially being part of the solution to such an urgent problem", said Phibro chairman, president and chief executive officer Jack Bendheim at the moment of the announcement.
Last month, authorities in the Chinese province of Hainan have declared that a vaccine developed by researchers has shown certain preventive effects after clinical trials. Nevertheless, a few days later, the minister ao Agriculture denied the information and said it has found “no scientific basis” on the reported test results of the product.
At the end of May, the European Commission decided to support the VACDIVA project - "A safe DIVA vaccine for the control and eradication of African swine fever"- coordinated by Jose Manuel Sanchez-Vizcaino, with 10 million euros.
"This project has the participation and experience of two global reference laboratories for African Swine Fever (ASF) such as those of the OIE and FAO, the EU reference laboratory (EURL), six national reference laboratories of the EU (of the 10 countries currently affected by ASF), four prestigious ASF research centers, two leading global companies in vaccine production and ASF diagnostic kits.
It will also have the participation of Russian, Chinese and African laboratories giving very useful support to the project", explained Mercedes Vega, General Director for Spain, Italy & Portugal of a genetics company. Even if at this moment is not clear who is going to finish this race first the industry will have a huge advantage in having a power weapon such a vaccine for this terrible disease.
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