The aim of work package 6 (WP6) is to develop evidence-based, practical strategies to prevent the spread of African swine fever (ASF) in Europe and neighbouring countries.
ASF is one of the most serious diseases of pigs. It hampers the regional and international trade in animals and animal products resulting in a substantial socio-economic impact on the pig farming sector. In Europe there are currently two main clusters of infection: one in Sardinia caused by strains of African swine fever virus (ASFV) belonging to genotype I and another in Eastern Europe caused by strains of ASFV belonging to genotype II. The latter was introduced in Georgia in 2007 and since then it spread to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine where, in certain areas, the disease is now endemic representing a constant threat for the neighbouring countries. Indeed, in 2014 the disease spread to Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia affecting mainly wild boar and backyard pigs and it has recently been reported also in the Czech Republic and Romania.
Backyard holdings with poor biosecurity have played an important role in the maintenance and spread of ASFV in the eastern European countries and in the absence of a vaccine, biosecurity, within the context of a proper diseases control strategy, is the only practicable way to combat the infection.
WP6’s activities are focused on ASF biosecurity and risk management practices in domestic pigs and wild boar. Risk factors relevant for spread of ASF at farm level will be defined, and a practical decision tool developed for assessing the level of risk on individual farms, facilitating implementation of tailored disease prevention measures. Furthermore, considering the significant involvement of the wild boar in the current ASF epidemic in the Eastern parts of Europe, to prevent the introduction of the disease in domestic pigs, it is necessary to earn knowledge on the biological mechanisms that lead to endemicity in the wild boar population. Studies on wild boar will focus on the interface of wild boar using modelling approaches to determine the efficacy of different management tools in prevention of spread of ASFV in wild boar and from wild boar to domestic pigs. ASF vaccination strategies will be also studied. A key strength of this WP is the synergy produced between the collaborating partners IZSLER, ISPRA and the Lithuanian State Food and Veterinary Service, who bring, respectively, expertise in ASFV epidemiology, wild boar ecology and management, and practical ASF outbreak experience with robust data. Possible vaccination strategies and post vaccination monitoring will be developed in collaboration with The Pirbright Institute and FLI.