Russia: massive virus outbreak shakes pig industry

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

The virus has forced Russia to kill 17,000 pigs to stop the disease from spreading
The virus has forced Russia to kill 17,000 pigs to stop the disease from spreading

Related tags Kursk oblast Immune system Livestock Pork

Russia has been rocked by several outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) in the first two weeks of August, the country’s veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor has claimed.

The disease is now raging in 13 regions of the country, including Voronezh, Kursk, Penza, Tambov Oblasts and a few others.

On 2 August the largest single outbreak in recent months was detected at the JSC Nadezda pig farm in Kursk Oblast. As a result, veterinary bodies had to cull 17,000 head of pigs as of 10 August and, given the proximity of several other pig farms, this figure is likely to grow, according to a report from Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Of particular concern to veterinary authorities is the fact that infected pork products may have been supplied from the farm to facilities in Kursk, Orlov, Belgorod Oblast, as well as Krasnodar Krai and Moscow,​” said the Ministry’s press service.


This poses the threat of a further spread of ASF​ to other regions, with a particular danger being that neighbouring Belgorod Oblast contains nearly 23% of Russia’s total pig population. As Rosselkhoznadzor has often pointed out, any penetration of the virus to this region would have disastrous consequences for the country’s pig industry.

The situation has forced head of Rosselkhoznadzor Sergei Dankvert to appeal to the governor of Kursk Oblast Sergei Mikhailov with a request on 8 August to take additional measures, in order to prevent the delivery of infected products to neighbouring regions.

Possible vaccine breakthrough

Following a recent study of the ASF genome, the Russian Science Foundation (RSF) claims to have moved much closer to the creation of a vaccine against the disease, according to a statement from the RSF’s press service.

A group of researchers studied the gene-encoding proteins of the ASF virus and, for the first time, established the antigens that stimulate the immune system of animals and neutralise the virus. The results have been published in the Journal of General Virology and the study was undertaken jointly with scientists from the Universities of Illinois, Connecticut and Nebraska.

According to Russian scientists, the location of genes CD2v and C-type lectin, responsible for the variability of the virus, was determined and verified through experiment. This antigen stimulates the immune response and makes the cell resistant to ASF. As a result, the antigen could be used to immunise animals.

The results of these studies demonstrate the ability to create an effective vaccine against ASF. The data focused on solving the fundamental problem of the pathogenesis of complex viruses and have a strong practical significance for the protection of animal health and food safety in the Russian Federation,​” said Alexander Malogolovkin, deputy director of the All-Russian Research Institute of Veterinary Virology and Microbiology.

Russia has been working on a vaccine against ASF since 2009. Previously it was reported that a vaccine could be ready by early 2017, but it is now clear that work on this will last for at least the next few years.

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