WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture has ramped up efforts to develop vaccines against deadly swine diseases that are prevalent in other countries, but pose a threat to the United States.

One focus of the agency’s efforts has been classical swine fever (CSF), a highly contagious disease that has been eradicated in the US but remains prevalent in wild boars in Europe. Wild boars can infect domestic pigs. Pigs within close proximity to an infected animal must be destroyed to prevent spread of the disease, USDA noted.

Developing vaccines, diagnostic tests and other strategies to control CSF is the work of Manuel Borca, a microbiologist with the Agricultural Research Service Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in Orient Point, NY. Borca and his colleagues are developing CSF virus strains that make it possible to differentiate between animals infected with a wild type of CSF and animals that have been vaccinated. Additional research has developed an assay that detects CSF virus in infected animals before signs of the disease appear, USDA said.

Scientists at Plum Island are also working on vaccines to control African Swine Fever (ASF), which is spreading in Europe and Asia. ASF kills all infected pigs within a week, according to USDA. Borca is developing genetically modified viruses that could be used in vaccines to protect against an ASF strain that has killed thousands of pigs in the Republic of Georgia and the Caucasus region.