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Advancing classical swine fever testing

Despite every effort to eradicate classical swine fever from pig herds, the continual prevalence of this highly contagious virus still threatens livestock all across Europe. While not potentially dangerous to humans, this disease can consume pig herd at an alarming rate. New methods to identify the disease rapidly are needed to ensure that the disease is contained, then eradicated and does not spread to epidemic proportions.


Classical swine fever (CSF) is primarily contracted through contact with contaminated herds, through exposure to pens, pig excrement and even human carriers can transfer the disease. Depending on the severity of the strain, CSF can be extremely difficult to detect and contain. From onset to death in the case of acute CSF, can take less than fourteen days. The most difficult form to detect is the mild form of CSF that can be recurrent though several years which is characterised by short periods of illness and recovery. In all cases, pig mortality is inevitable. Detecting CSF is therefore of vital importance. Rapid, sensitive and specific testing is required. Therefore, the Veterinary Laboratory Agency in England has developed a variety of reverse transcription and polymerase chain reaction tests that comply with these needs. Their tests simplify the entire procedure, reducing the risk of cross contamination of batch tests as well as providing the means for testing individual pigs and the entire herd rapidly. This mass screening proves highly advantageous when it comes to screening herds in transit or from areas where testing methods are unreliable. Where early detection is of utmost importance, mass sampling needs to be analysed over a very short period of time. Current reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction testing involves time consuming multiple-stage processes and often run the risk of false conclusions. The newly developed reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test reduces the multiple-step testing into a single process. Reverse transcription and polymerase chain reaction tests now involve fluorescent probes that provide automated reading of results, increasing test specificity and reducing the risk of false positive results. Because of the simplicity now involved with testing it is possible to incorporate the procedure in robotic sample processing for large-scale usage. This new test with its rapidity, sensitivity, specificity, simplicity and its mass testing potential, provides an important advantage to protecting pig herds from contamination. It may be the advantage needed in order to eradicate the disease, completely from European pig farms once more. The developers have patented the technology and are looking for further research and development support.

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