A new natural mutation of the ASF virus appears in China that could be less lethal

The partial absence of two genes in the strain makes the disease less attacking, according to previous research.

A group of Chinese researchers claims to have found a natural mutation of the African swine fever virus (ASF) that could be less lethal than the strain that has alarmingly decimated the Chinese pig herd in recent years. The findings of this group have been published in the Chinese Journal of Veterinary Science.

The various strains that are emerging in China have veterinary researchers concerned. Recently, a new variant of the virus was detected whose origin could be in unapproved vaccines against ASF. However, some researchers took away the credibility of this theory and explained that given the long period of ASF circulation in China, it was inevitable that natural variants would appear. It is the case that less virulent variants have also appeared in other countries such as Latvia and Estonia.

Two gene deletion

The new strain now found, named HuB20, was isolated from pig samples taken at a central Hubei province market, explained lead researcher Hu Rongliang. According to previous research, the strain had a partial deletion of the CD2v gene and the adjacent 8CR gene, which could protect against ASF. These deleted genes were different from those found to be missing in other strains described above.

"This variant does not contain any known marker genes, indicating that natural variants of the virus occur in China, something that may be related to the subacute ASF epidemic in the country," the authors explained. At the moment, the research group is working to validate the virulence of this new strain.

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