Spread of deadly pig virus in China hastens vaccine research

The virus is not harmful to humans, but is taking a huge economic toll on the pork industry.

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A highly contagious disease that kills infected pigs has swept across China and is moving through neighbouring countries. Scientists in China are ramping up efforts to study the virus that causes African swine fever and produce a vaccine. But scientists elsewhere fear that political pressure to make a vaccine quickly could risk introducing chronic strains of the virus.

Although the haemorrhagic disease was first recorded in Kenya in 1921, China’s first case was detected only last August, in the north-eastern city of Shenyang. Since then, the government has reported more than 120 outbreaks across some 30 provinces, autonomous regions or municipalities.

Officials had long feared the arrival of African swine fever in China, which is the world’s largest pig producer. The virus is not harmful to humans, and virologists say the risk of it mutating to become infectious to people is low, but the economic cost of an epidemic is enormous.

By: Smriti Mallapaty/Nature News

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