Looking down at white piglets, close up, with one looking up at viewer Looking down at white piglets, close up, with one looking up at viewer

Validating an African Swine Fever Virus Subunit Vaccine

Generating Advanced Animal Systems Solutions
Generating Advanced Animal Systems Solutions

Program Contact

Dr. Jasmine Bruno

Dr. Waithaka Mwangi

Dr. Waithaka Mwangi

Kansas State University

Year Awarded  2023

FFAR award amount   $1,000,000

Total award amount   $2,645,427

Location   Manhattan, KS

Program   Seeding Solutions

Matching Funders   Elanco Animal Health, Kansas State University, Kansas State University Innovation Partners and MEDIAN Diagnostics, Inc.

  • Advanced Animal Systems

Protecting U.S. Swine from ASFV

African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) is a highly contagious, fatal disease in pigs that spreads rapidly. There is no commercially available treatment or vaccine for the virus, and it poses a significant threat to United States swine production, a $57-billion-dollar industry.

Without a preventative vaccine or treatment, producers’ only control options are enhancing biosecurity, increasing surveillance and quarantining or culling infected pigs. Producers need a way to protect their herds.

To address this urgent concern, Dr. Waithaka Mwangi, immunology professor in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University (K-State), is developing and validating a vaccine to protect pigs from the virus. Existing research has shown that certain proteins inherent within the virus can activate protective immunity. This research is focused on identification of the protective ASFV proteins, identification of an effective vaccination method that will spur a protective immune response in pigs and validation of the prototype vaccine’s efficacy using a large sample size for the study.

ASFV has existed in Africa for decades, but it is now spreading due to changing production practices and increasing globalization. ASFV entered China in August 2018 and significantly disrupted the country’s pork industry for several years after. The virus is now infecting swine herds across the globe, with the closest outbreaks to the U.S. occurring in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Jasmine Bruno
Should the virus reach the U.S., outputs from this research could slow the virus’ spread, protect millions of U.S. pigs and safeguard our food supply. Jasmine Bruno, Ph.D.
Scientific Program Director
Cultivating Thriving Production Systems

This Research is Critical for the Pork Industry

The U.S. swine production is an important player in the U.S. economy, providing food, revenue and employment. In fact, according to the National Pork Producer Council, the pork industry contributes $57+ billion in value added (GDP) to the U.S. economy, provides more than 610,000 jobs and generates $35 billion in personal income. Additionally, the swine industry supports other industries like soybean and corn for feed, transportation, processing and finance.

ASFV threatens swine wellbeing, producers’ livelihoods and an industry critical to the U.S. economy. An ASFV outbreak on U.S. soil would be catastrophic not only for the pork industry, but also for other agriculture commodities that support the industry. Preliminary estimates suggest an outbreak could result in as much as $15 billion in losses to the pork industry based on a 2-year scenario or $50 billion in losses if we are unable to contain and eliminate ASFV in a 10-year scenario.

Dr. Waithaka Mwangi
This FFAR Seeding Solutions grant provided the funds for us to leverage additional stakeholder support needed to fund the necessary research to validate the effectiveness of a prototype vaccine that has already generated promising results. Dr. Waithaka Mwangi
Professor, Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University

Details About this Research

Several attenuated ASFV vaccine candidates have been shown to induce protection in pigs, but deployment is hindered by safety concerns and production limitations. However, the actual ASFV proteins required to develop a safe protective vaccine have not yet been identified, and researchers still must determine a suitable method for effectively immunizing pigs.

Mwangi and his research team identified multiple ASFV proteins inherent within the virus that may activate protective immunity. The researchers then harnessed these proteins to develop an experimental subunit vaccine, a type of vaccine that contains only the parts of the virus needed to stimulate desired immune response. In a preliminary study, the vaccine protected five out of six pigs from African Swine Fever as judged by complete virus clearance after infection, survival and normal weight gain.

They have also identified promising ASFV proteins that could be used to develop a diagnostic device that can allow Differentiation of Infected from Vaccinated Animals (DIVA). A DIVA vaccine would be critical for differentiating infected animals from those vaccinated against the virus.

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