24 March 2015 - African Swine Fever (ASF) poses an increasing threat to Europe and any country with a pig sector. Its progressive spread in Eastern Europe despite increasing prevention and control efforts, together with the worsening situation in Sub-Saharan Africa, has led to increasing concerns by at risk countries and international organizations alike.
This has led to the launching in September 2012 of the ASFORCE project, a 3-year European Commission-funded consortium for targeted research on ASF, where FAO is a partner. ASFORCE has achieved a number of important advances in the understanding of ASF in Europe and in the development of better prevention and control tools and strategies against the disease.
Now that the project is coming to an end (it is due to finish in September 2015), a dissemination workshop was organized at FAO headquarters in Rome on 10 March and attended by representatives from veterinary services in southern Europe, namely Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Spain. The main goal of the workshop was to update countries on the progress in the knowledge on ASF achieved within ASFORCE, while providing a platform for participants to discuss relevant issues for the organization of prevention and contingency plans at national level. A similar workshop was organized in Berlin for countries in northern Europe two weeks before.
Following a brief background on ASFORCE and an introduction to ASF, consortium partners presented the main achievements in the different areas of work:
- Better characterization of the pig sector and its movement patterns; Updated epidemiological disease status and genetic properties of ASFV; Evaluation of the surveillance and control programs; Disease dynamics models; Economic evaluation of disease control scenarios; Guidelines for cost-effective control and prevention;
- Improved knowledge on the epidemiology of ASF in wild boar, their interactions with domestic pigs and the potential role of soft ticks in the disease epidemiology.
- Advances leading to vaccine development through 1) rational deletion of genes to produce attenuated and non-replicating candidate ASFV vaccine strains; and 2) identification of protective antigens and their incorporation into vectored virus vaccine.
- Diagnostic development: Development of improved diagnostic tests for virus and antibody detection enabling for the discrimination of potential carriers and reinforcing diagnostic capacities for ASF diagnosis.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) presented the past, present and future risk assessment work conducted on ASF. In addition, country representatives shared their current ASF prevention and preparedness status, and had the opportunity to engage in discussions with the ASFORCE experts.