Fever, caused by illicit vaccines, takes over Chinese pig farms
China, which has been struggling to change the globe's outlook about its role in the coronavirus pandemic, has now been hit by another infectious disease — pigs are catching a fever that may have been triggered due to illicit vaccines, a Reuters report said. Over 1,000 sows on farms owned by the nation's fourth-largest meat producer, New Hope Liuhe, have been infected.
The pigs were found to be infected with two new strains of African swine fever. These strains were said to be missing one or two genes, usually present in the virus which ravaged pig farms in 2018 and 2019. Though the new strains aren't fatal, they drastically reduce the number of healthy piglets born. Unsurprisingly, to curb the spread, pigs are being culled.
Yan Zhichun, the Chief Science Officer of New Hope Liuhe, said, "I don't know where they come from, but we find some mild field infections caused by some sort of gene-deleted viruses." There is a palpable fear that if this infection spreads quickly, the production of pork would be affected, in turn having a huge impact on the food security of China.
Last year, Wayne Johnson, a Beijing-based veterinarian, concluded that a virus that was infecting pigs lacked the MGF360 genes. Now, Yan has said the strains found in New Hope farms didn't have both MGF360 and CD2v genes. It was also found that removing the MGF360 gene provides some immunity against African swine fever. Notably, humans are not affected by this disease.
Though there are no approved vaccines for African swine fever, some Chinese farmers inject pigs with unapproved doses to protect them. China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has issued at least three advisories against the use of unapproved vaccines while also warning that offenders would be charged criminally. It said in August that it would test pigs to see if they have been administered doses of illegal vaccines.
China's Harbin Veterinary Research is developing a vaccine by deleting MGF360 and CD2v genes. The initial trials showed promise and its results were published in scientific journals. Yan firmly believes that people replicated these strains, developed illegal vaccines, and then injected pigs with them, who subsequently spread the disease. "It's definitely man-made; this is not a natural strain," he claimed.