New China swine fever strains point to unlicensed vaccines - Reuters
Jan 22, 2021 1 min, 30 secs

BEIJING (Reuters) - A new form of African swine fever identified in Chinese pig farms is most likely caused by illicit vaccines, industry insiders say, a fresh blow to the world’s largest pork producer, still recovering from a devastating epidemic of the virus.

Two new strains of African swine fever have infected more than 1,000 sows on several farms owned by New Hope Liuhe, China’s fourth-largest producer, as well as pigs being fattened for the firm by contract farmers, said Yan Zhichun, the company’s chief science officer.

Though the strains, which are missing one or two key genes present in the wild African swine fever virus, don’t kill pigs like the disease that ravaged China’s farms in 2018 and 2019, they cause a chronic condition that reduces the number of healthy piglets born, Yan told Reuters.

New Hope has found strains of the virus missing both the MGF360 genes and the CD2v genes, Yan said.

Research has shown that deleting some MGF360 genes from African swine fever creates immunity.

In August, the ministry said it would test pigs for different strains of the virus as part of a nationwide investigation into illegal vaccine use.

After decades of research toward producing a vaccine against the huge, complex swine fever virus, researchers around the world are focussing on live-virus vaccines - the only type to have shown any promise.

One such vaccine used in Spain in the 1960s caused a chronic disease with swollen joints, skin lesions and respiratory issues in pigs that complicated efforts to eradicate African swine fever over the next three decades.

Yan said he believes that people have replicated the sequences of virus strains being studied, which have been published in scientific literature, and that pigs injected with illicit vaccines based on them could be infecting others.

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