African swine fever virus

African swine fever virus (ASFV) infects domestic pigs and wild boars with the virulence being highly variable. It belongs to the Asfarviridae family, genus Asfivirus and is an enveloped capsid virus containing a double-stranded DNA genome.

  • African swine fever is a notifiable disease and should be reported.
    Please see the Defra website for advice on how to spot and report the disease.

Associated diseases:

The virus causes African swine fever (ASF), a highly contagious viral disease which can cause 100% mortality in domestic pigs and wild boar. The clinical signs of ASF vary and are similar to some other pig diseases. Signs typically occur 3 – 15 days after infection.

Clinical signs:

  • High fever
  • Reddening of the skin (visible only in pale-skinned pigs) – patches appearing on the tips of ears, tail, feet, chest, or under the belly
  • Decreased appetite, listlessness and incoordination
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea (sometimes bloody) and eye discharges

In some cases sudden death may be the only clinical sign.

Disease transmission:

The disease can be spread directly through contact. It can also be spread indirectly through feeding infected pig meat and /or pork products, species of soft tick in some regions and possibly blood sucking flies or insects and through contaminated objects (fomites) such as vehicles, clothes, equipment etc.

Disease prevalence:

ASF exists in most Sub-Saharan African countries. Since 2007 outbreaks have occurred in the Caucasus region, Sardinia and the Russian Federation and bordering countries. ASF was introduced into the EU in Poland and the Baltic States in 2014 and has continued to spread in wild boar and cause outbreaks in domestic pigs.

Impact for Society – what are we doing?

There is currently no treatment or vaccine available and therefore biosecurity measures are essential to prevent an outbreak from spreading.

By researching ASFV, our scientists hope to gain a better understanding of how the virus works and use this information to produce vaccines. They are specifically working on finding the genes that are involved in lowering the immune systems response. Research is ongoing to delete these genes so that the modified virus can then be used as a vaccine. Alternatively, the proteins of the virus are being screened to find which would be best at creating a protective immune response.

Research papers

Golding J P, Goatley L, Goodbourn S, Dixon L K, Taylor G, Netherton C L (2016)

Virology 493, 154-161
Guinat C, Vergne T, Jurado-Diaz C, Sánchez-Vizcaíno J M, Dixon L, Pfeiffer D U (2016)

Veterinary Record early view,
Guinat C, Wall B, Dixon L, Pfeiffer D U (2016)

PLoS ONE 11 (9), e0161431
Guinat C, Gogin A, Blome S, Keil G, Pollin R, Pfeiffer D U, Dixon L (2016)

Veterinary Record 178 (11), 262-267
Maisonnasse P, Bouguyon E, Piton G, Ezquerra A, Urien C, Deloizy C, Bourge M, Leplat J J, Simon G, Chevalier C, Vincent-Naulleau S, Crisci E, Montoya M, Schwartz-Cornil I, Bertho N (2016)

Mucosal Immunology 9 (4), 835-849


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