ASF-resistant pigs identified in historic study

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Warthogs are believed to have a different gene variation making them resistant to disease
Warthogs are believed to have a different gene variation making them resistant to disease

Related tags Dna Genetics Livestock

The ground has shifted in the fight against African swine fever (ASF) after scientists in Scotland used advanced genetic engineering to potentially create ASF-resilient pigs. 

University of Edinburgh’s ground-breaking study could dramatically turn the table in the fight against the highly contagious ASF virus, which kills up to two-thirds of infected pigs.

The new pigs carry part of the genetic code found in warthogs and bush pigs, and researchers believe it is part of this DNA that prevents the robust animals from contracting deadly viruses.

When standard pigs catch the virus and become infected, they quickly become ill and die, but inexplicably, warthogs and bush pigs show no disease symptoms when infected.


Scientists from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute focused their research on one specific gene, known as RELA. This gene is associated with the ASF virus and causes the immune system to overreact, with devastating effect.

It is believed warthogs and bush pigs carry a different variation of the RELA gene and scientists believe this strengthens their immune system, which obviously would make them more resistant to a host of viruses.

Dolly the sheep

Our goal is to improve the welfare of farmed pigs around the world, making them healthier and more productive for farmers,​” said Professor Bruce Whitelaw, head of developmental biology at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute.

It looks like the Roslin Institute could be on the brink of breaking genomic history for the second time in its distinguished history. In 1996, the university won worldwide acclaim for creating the first mammal to be cloned from a somatic cell. That mammal was Dolly the Sheep.

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