AAHL was built to help protect Australia’s livestock industries from disease threats such as African swine fever (ASF), and our scientists are well prepared to help and respond.

The recent spread of ASF

In recent years, a devastating disease of pigs known as African swine fever (ASF) has been spreading globally and, more recently, in SE Asia, which has increased the risk of the disease entering Australia.

Our scienitsts are developing accurate and sensitive tests for the diagnosis of ASF infection.  © Kansas State Research and Extension

As its name implies, ASF was originally identified in Africa, where it is endemic in Sub-Saharan countries and circulates in domestic pigs and wild African pig species, such as warthogs.

ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly

The impacts of ASF include sickness and death in domestic pigs, loss of trade and the costs associated with outbreak response and eradication measures.

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent this disease, nor other treatment and so disease control is dependent on rapid detection, culling and strict biosecurity measures.

A major factor in the spread of the disease is human behaviour and activities, including importing illegal pork products and swill feeding.

AAHL’s role in protecting Australia

Our challenge is to work with government and industry to stop ASF entering Australia and, in the event it does emerge, work quickly to contain and eradicate it.

AAHL was built to help protect Australia’s livestock industries from disease threats such as ASF, and our scientists are well prepared to help and respond.

Our research on ASF

Our research includes understanding how ASF virus infects pigs, specifically how their immune system reacts to the virus and how it influences the replication of the virus in the host. In conjunction with this work, studies are ongoing to develop new methods of producing high concentrations of candidate ASF vaccine strains, so that when an effective vaccine is finally developed, it can be produced in the industrial quantities required.

However, without a vaccine, rapid response to a disease outbreak is essential to minimising the economic, environmental and social impacts.

A key element to rapid response is laboratory diagnosis, and this requires that diagnostic tests are sensitive, specific and fit for purpose. Scientists at AAHL continually work towards developing more accurate and sensitive tests for the diagnosis of ASF infection. Our lab is actively involved in testing for ASF on imported pork products, and with the current spread of ASF through Asia, are performing confirmatory testing on samples from ASF-affected countries.

Advice and support

In addition to testing, our scientists have been on the ground in neighbouring countries helping them to prepare for and respond to ASF. Staff have provided training and capacity building for ASF diagnostics and response strategies throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to performing ASF research and diagnostics, our staff are members of national and international committees and expert groups that advise and support governments to provide education and implement controls to minimise the impact of ASF on their pig populations and farming communities.

They are working closely with our own Government, attending a roundtable of industry leaders, scientists and government staff that discussed the actions needed to keep African swine fever out of Australia, bolstering our preparedness and strengthening Australia’s border.

You can help

Please don’t import illegal meat products or feed pigs with food scraps.

For further information, visit the Department of Agriculture’s information on Keeping African swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease out of Australia .

Scientists at AAHL are also protecting Australia from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

Australian Animal Health Laboratory

CSIRO’s AAHL is a purpose-built high containment facility with the capacity to safely conduct research and testing for ASF and other diseases.

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