As African swine fever (ASF) spreads throughout China, and with its outbreaks detected in some European countries, swine producers across the globe have become more vigilant in watching their herds for symptoms. When a disease can spread so rapidly, early detection becomes critical to control. Animal health expert Boehringer Ingelheim is continuously looking for novel solutions, and the company has partnered with GNA Biosolutions to test a method that may ultimately lead to innovative outcomes in this area.
“We got to know GNA when we were looking for innovations in the field of diagnostics and one of the innovations, which is of high interest for us, is a speed-to-result (test),” said Rolf-Dieter Guenther, head of diagnostics and monitoring at Boehringer Ingelheim, during a recent phone interview.
Current testing for ASF and other viral infections is limited to PCR tests. Fluids are collected from potential sick animals and sent off to a lab for testing. The whole process can take several days.
Boehringer Ingelheim and GNA Biosolutions are working on developing a test that could be done on the farm and yield immediate results.
“We are now in the early phase, so what we are doing currently is a proof of concept,” said Guenther. “We have chosen African swine fever virus because everybody is extremely worried and it represents a significant potential threat for the swine industry. This collaboration may lead to a new diagnostics tool, enabling reliable testing on a broader base and contributing significantly to disease control. The release and practical use of any such test is of course subject to regulatory approvals.”
GNA Biosolutions is a Germany-based company that works with molecular testing. They use a testing method called Pulse Controlled Amplification (PCA) which is significantly faster at diagnosing ASF. They have also recently developed a portable PCA unit.
“If we had a device which was easy to use, convenient, comes to results faster and is portable, then we would have a versatile tool to help significantly to control diseases,” he commented.
Should ASF ever reach the United States, the response will be extreme, with immediate lock down of all farms in the area of the suspected infection. The movement of any pigs in that area would stop completely. Movement of pigs anywhere in the country, particularly across state lines would become restricted in an effort to minimize the risk of spreading the disease.
Once it is here, even the suspected infection of a herd – suspected but not confirmed – would lead to significant setbacks for all swine producers in the area. They would be in lockdown until the infection is confirmed or denied by the PCR lab test, which can take days.
“We at Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health strive to provide, in this case swine farmers, one of our key customer groups, tools to early detect, diagnose and prevent diseases,” explained Guenther. “It is not limited to what we are discussing here, however, African swine fever is of course on top of everybody’s minds.”
Should Boehringer Ingelheim and GNA Biosolutions have a successful proof of concept, the next steps would grow their partnership by developing an actual tool for farmers and veterinarians to use. Later, they would explore the options of testing for other diseases.
“We want to continue to provide solutions to the swine industry, solutions which help prevent, early detect and diagnose potential health threats,” he said.