Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have identified a new way to detect the presence of live African swine fever (ASF) virus.
The new method minimizes the need for samples from live animals and provides easier access to veterinary laboratories that need to diagnose the virus, ARS said in a July 28 announcement.
"We have identified a cell line that can be used to isolate and detect the presence of the live virus," ARS scientist Dr. Douglas Gladue said. "This is a critical breakthrough and a tremendous step for African swine fever virus diagnostics."
There are currently no vaccines available to prevent ASF, and controlling an outbreak has often relied on quarantining and removing infected or exposed animals. Until now, effectively detecting live ASF virus required collecting blood cells from a live donor swine for every diagnostic test, because the cells could only be used once, ARS explained.
The new cell line can be replicated continuously and frozen to create cells for future use, reducing the number of live donor animals needed.
The new cell line is also commercially available to veterinary diagnostic labs that traditionally did not have access to the swine blood cells needed to test for live virus, ARS said.
Recent outbreaks of ASF outside the African continent started after a single introduction of ASF virus in the Republic of Georgia in 2007. The disease subsequently spread across Eastern Europe and Russia and recently spread to China and Southeast Asian countries. The current "Georgia" outbreak strain is highly contagious and lethal in domesticated pigs.
Even though the virus is not currently present in the U.S., the U.S. swine industry could suffer substantial economic losses should an outbreak occur, ARS said.
This research, which is highlighted in this month's issue of Viruses, was funded through an interagency agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science & Technology Directorate, the U.S. Department of Energy and USDA.
A provisional patent application for this research was filed in April 2020, and the technology is now available for license, ARS said.
ARS scientists at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in Plum Island, N.Y., will continue to perform research and work toward finding tools to control the spread of ASF in the nation.