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Ivory Coast detects ASF virus in new district

African swine fever (ASF) virus has been detected again in Ivory Coast and three further outbreaks are reported in South Africa, as new funding offers hope for the development of an effective vaccine against the virus in Africa.

Pigs In Pens Eating
songqiuju |

The veterinary authority of Ivory Coast (Republic of Côte d’Ivoire) has recorded the first cases of African swine fever (ASF) in the central district of Sassandra-Marahoué.

Introduction of new animals was the likely source of infection, which began in mid-March near the departmental capital of Daloa.

According to the official notification to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), 167 of the 193 domestic pigs in the herd died at a premises described as a “semi-modern farm.” This came after the addition of two animals from a herd under joint ownership where recent mortalities had been recorded.

In July 2023, ASF was detected in this West African state for the first time after a hiatus of almost two years. Based on reporting to WOAH, four outbreaks in this ongoing active disease series were subsequently confirmed in village herds in four of the nation’s 14 administrative districts. Including the most recent outbreak starting in mid-September 2023, approximately 1,200 pigs have been directly impacted so far in that outbreak wave.

ASF was first detected in Ivory Coast in 1996, according to a recent report by national news agency, AIP. This resulted in the deaths of 100,000 swine, and cost more than XAF1.8 billion (US$2.9 million). Between 2015 and 2023, a further five outbreaks series resulted in economic losses of XAF9.2 billion.

In Central Africa, ASF has recently reemerged with the first detection of ASF virus in the Republic of Angola since 2017. 

South Africa records further ASF outbreaks

Over the past week, the national animal health authority has notified WOAH of ASF outbreaks at three further locations starting since late March.

In Eastern Cape, 97 pigs died out of a village herd comprising 500 animals. The virus was also detected in another village herd and then at a farm with 200 swine — both in Gauteng.

To date, South Africa has confirmed a total of 297 outbreaks of ASF in four long-running outbreak series, one of which started in 2019. Directly impacted have been close to 112,000 domestic pigs.

Between the start of 2022 and the end of March this year, a total of 158 ASF outbreaks have been recorded across the continent of Africa. Losses of animals are approaching 32,000, according to a WOAH global situation report on ASF. 

Study looks at potential ASF vaccines for Africa

In recent years, ASF has been threatening global food security. In directly affected areas, it has also affected livelihoods, and brought heavy economic losses. In the absence of a widely authorized effective and safe vaccine, the effects are being felt particularly by lower-income nations.  

However, a new project at the Pirbright Institute in the United Kingdom offers hope for ASF vaccination to become an option in African countries.

Aim of the study is to investigate whether modified live vaccines (MLV) offer cross-protection against some or all of the 24 strains of ASF virus genotypes circulating around the continent.  

The researchers have already produced a promising genotype II MLV candidate, according to project lead Dr. Anusyah Rathakrishnan. This also offers partial protection against genotype I, but has no effect on genotype IX.  

New funding from the Medical Research Council will allow the team to understand better how their MLV works, and the pig’s immune response to it.  

“The grant will allow us to understand host responses that correlate with protection, potentially allowing us to predict cross protection of current vaccines against other circulating genotypes in Africa,” she said.

With this knowledge, the team will be able to design future trials that are more targeted, and minimize costly animal trials.

In July 2023, Vietnam authorized the world’s first ASF vaccines for pigs. These target the genotype II virus.

View our continuing coverage of the global African swine fever situation.

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