U of S researchers tackling African swine fever

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan will be trying to develop a vaccine to fight African swine flu to combat the spread of the disease in Asia. File / Global News

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan will be working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to learn more about African swine fever.

Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) will be looking to test vaccines and antivirals for the fever that has killed pigs across Africa and Asia.

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VIDO-InterVac’s director and CEO said now that the disease has entered China, there is a risk it could contaminate Canada’s pork industry.

“It would be introduced by either humans who bring in illegal meat transports or meat products into the country or potentially through contaminated feed or feed ingredients or potentially through contaminated shipping vessels,” Volker Gerdts told Global News.

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Starting this month, the organization will work with African swine fever in its Saskatoon facility to try and learn more about it.

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“African swine fever is a disease that is not new. It’s been around for many decades, over 100 years but the issue is that not much research has been done over the last few decades because it’s really a problem that happened in Africa. Now that it has made its way out into Asia, it’s really on our doorstep. So there’s a lot that we don’t know about this disease,” Gerdts said.

He said a vaccine would be developed and sent to China to inject pigs there where the fever has reportedly killed as much as 65 per cent of its swine herd.

READ MORE: China’s swine fever outbreak inflates global pork prices by up to 40%

Canada exported about $4 billion in pork to 87 countries in 2018, making the country a top three exporter of pork.

African swine fever has never been detected in Canada and doesn’t pose a food-safety risk.

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