New ASF strains discovered in China
A new form of African swine fever (ASF), less contagious than the original virus, has been discovered in pig farms in China. Although strains do not kill pigs, they cause a chronic disease that reduces the number of healthy piglets being born, reported Reuters, after interviewing Yan Zhichun, New Hope Lihue's scientific director.
More than 1,000 pigs have been infected in various farms at New Hope Liuhe, China's fourth-largest producer, as well as animals undergoing fattening processes for the company. The new strains lack one or two key genes present in the original virus and are not deadly to the animals, confirmed Yan Zhichun. However, the productivity in breeding farms may be severely impacted by these new forms of the disease. "I don't know where they come from, but we detected some infections in mild forms caused by some type of virus with deleted genes," said Yan, who also suspects illicit vaccines against ASF to be behind all that.
Since August 2018, China has lost almost 40% of the national swine inventory due to ASF crisis. There is no approved vaccine against African swine fever, a disease that does not affect humans. Still, many Chinese farmers, struggling to protect their pigs, have turned to unauthorized products, according to industry experts. They fear that illicit vaccines have created accidental infections, which are now spreading.
The new strains can proliferate globally through contaminated meat, infecting pigs that are fed with leftover food. The virus is known to survive for months in some pig products. In 2020, China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs issued at least three warnings against the use of unauthorized African swine fever vaccines, saying that they could have serious side effects and that producers and users could be criminally accused.
In August, the ministry said it would test pigs for different strains of the virus as part of a national investigation into the illegal use of vaccines. Any strain with deleted genes may indicate that a vaccine has been used, officials said. So far, no conclusions have been published on the matter.
(Photo source: GCCA)
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