Scientists Claim They Found a Treatment for the Virus Decimating the World’s Pork Supply

A new study suggests a 100% immunization rate

Chris Baraniuk
OneZero
Published in
5 min readDec 4, 2019

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A veterinarian in Kabanjahe, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

LLast month, a river in South Korea turned red with the blood of 47,000 pigs. The animals had been culled in an effort to halt the spread of African swine fever (ASF), a deadly virus for which there is no known cure or commercially available vaccine. Practically every pig that becomes infected with it dies within 10 days.

Although the disease cannot harm humans, it has decimated China’s pig herds and is now spreading in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. It is thought to have led to the deaths of a quarter of the world’s domestic pigs this year. Hundreds of millions of animals have been either killed by the virus or preemptively culled.

The president of Germany’s national meat industry association recently told the newspaper ‘Bild’ that products like sausages would “definitely” be more expensive in 2020.

In China, the price of pork has risen sharply, affecting trade elsewhere. The president of Germany’s national meat industry association recently told the newspaper Bild that products like sausages would “definitely” be more expensive in 2020.

And yet there is a glimmer of hope. When the ASF epidemic exploded in China in August 2018, the world’s scientists hunkered down in an effort to develop a successful vaccine. Now, a research group in New York has published very promising, albeit early, results.

The experiments, conducted by scientists at the Plum Island Animal Disease Centre — part of the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service — have not yet been peer reviewed. But they are, potentially, significant: Every pig treated with a prototype vaccine avoided developing significant signs of ASF, and all of them appeared well-protected from it after 28 days.

Images from the Department of Homeland Security’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Photos: Kathleen Apicelli

“We’re pretty excited,” says Douglas Gladue, one of the study’s co-authors, via phone. “I think it…

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Chris Baraniuk
OneZero

Freelance science and technology journalist. Based in Northern Ireland.