Scientists Examine Alternative Sampling Methods for ASF Detection

Farmscape for January 21, 2021

SIP African Swine Fever Seminar 1:33:17 Listen

Scientists are hoping to speed up the identification of African Swine Fever through the use of alternative sample types.
“Diagnosis of ASF using Alternative Sample Types” was discussed earlier this month as part of a Swine Innovation Porc ASF preparedness webinar. Dr. Aruna Ambagala, a Research Scientist with the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, says, because of the non-specific symptoms, laboratory diagnosis is essential so scientists are looking at a number of alternative sample types for surveillance.

Clip-Dr. Aruna Ambagala-National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease:
If you look at how we detect African Swine Fever there are two ways. One way is to detect the agent, that’s the virus and the other one is to look at the antibodies to the virus. When you look at the agent, what you’re looking at is either the viral nucleic acid, the genomic material of the virus, and you can do this by PCR. By this method we can detect ongoing outbreaks. Once we do the screening test, at the NCFAD we can complete our tests within two to four hours, depending on the number of samples, once we receive the samples here and then it’s followed by sequencing and also virus isolation. It’s not always successful but we do virus isolation. It takes about two to three weeks.

The other method is to look at the antibodies which shows past ASF exposure. That means the animals were exposed to the virus.
You can see the antibodies for months to years in the serum samples so we can detect. The screening test that we have at the NCFAD currently is an ELISA based test, which is a high throughput test that can handle large numbers of samples and, because the specificity of the test is not that great, there is some additional tests that have to be done to confirm. We have a number of confirmatory tests available at the NCFAD.

Dr. Ambagala acknowledges, especially during initial stages of infection, early detection is difficult because the picture may not look like ASF.

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