K-State funded for new African swine fever studies

Kansas State University researchers will conduct a $500,000-plus research project to examine how African swine fever virus survives and spreads on farms.

Dr. Niederwerder
Dr. Megan Niederwerder

Dr. Megan Niederwerder, assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine, received a $513,000 grant from the National Pork Board and the state of Kansas to lead the studies. An announcement from the college indicates the work will include learning how the virus could be introduced to farms, such as through feed ingredients contaminated prior to importation, and how that risk could be reduced.

“While our primary goal is to prevent African swine fever virus introduction into the U.S., we have to be prepared for a swift and effective response should the virus ever enter our country,” Dr. Niederwerder said in the announcement. “Goals of the ongoing African swine fever virus research in my laboratory are not only to develop strategies for prevention, but to also broaden detection capacity and validate best practices for elimination.”

ASF is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease that can kill entire naive herds. The disease has spread among domestic swine in Europe and Asia in recent years, causing devastating losses, and the Dominican Republic and Haiti reported their first confirmed ASF cases in 2021.

In China, which is the world’s largest pork producer, outbreaks since August 2018 have killed millions of pigs, with some industry estimates suggesting the losses were between 150 million and 200 million pigs, according to an October 2021 article in Nature Food. That article indicates the economic losses related to ASF from August 2018 to July 2019 accounted for 0.78% of China’s gross domestic product in 2019.

A version of this article appears in the Jan. 1, 2022, print issue of JAVMA.