WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. — Purdue University announced that researchers are developing a rapid, pen-side test for African swine fever (ASF).

The project recently secured $1 million in funding from the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program. 

The research for the rapid test development will be led by Mohit Verma, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue.

“A rapid test that can be done in the field is needed for surveillance and diagnosis of African swine fever,” Verma said. “When it hit China a few years ago, it wiped out 50% of the country’s pig population. It is a devastating disease, and hours, even minutes, matter in containing it.”

According to Purdue, the ASF rapid-test funding came from the latest US farm bill.  

“This was the first time to my knowledge that a joint operation between these two organizations was included in the farm bill,” Verma said. “It shows how seriously the US is taking the risk from African swine fever.”

Other Purdue scientists working on this endeavor to create a portable paper-strip test for the disease include Darryl Ragland, associate professor of veterinary medicine, and Jonathan Alex Pasternak, an assistant professor of animal sciences. The test design follows a similar one developed for COVID-19 and Bovine Respiratory Disease.

 “We’re working on a test that will detect the virus within 30 minutes and indicate results through an easy-to-see color change on a paper strip,” Verma said. “The ease of use, test timing and size are similar to those of an at-home pregnancy test or COVID-19 test.”

Verma added that a saliva or blood sample will be used for the test. The sample is mixed with primers and reagents developed by the team within a cartridge and gently heated. The included paper strip then changes colors if African swine fever DNA is present.

The technology tests for DNA from the virus and uses a nucleic acid amplification method called loop-mediated isothermal amplification, or LAMP. When the viral DNA is present, LAMP amplifies it. As the level of nucleic acid increases, it changes the pH of the assay, which triggers the color change on the paper strip.