Filipino-made test kits for African swine fever may be available by end-2022: DOST

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2022 03:11 PM

Native pigs  ABS-CBN News
Native pigs unaffected by the African Swine Fever (ASF) are kept inside a backyard hog raiser’s pen in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan on May 11, 2021 before being sold through word of mouth. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — A locally-developed test kit that could detect African swine fever (ASF) may be available by the end of the year, while research is also underway for a possible vaccine against the disease, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said on Wednesday.

Fatal to hogs but not to humans, an ASF case prompts the culling of pigs within a 1-kilometer radius under current rules, noted DOST Undersecretary Rowena Guevarra. 

She said the ASF test kit would eliminate the need to cull all pigs within the outbreak area, preventing possible pork supply problems. 

"Kapag mayroon tayong detection kit hindi mo na kailangan lahat patayin, puwede mo na i-detect sino ang mga baboy na may sakit at 'yun lang ang kailangan nating idispatsa. Pero 'yung mga walang sakit ay pwede namang hindi na patayin," Guevarra said in a televised public briefing. 

(Once we have this detection kit, we no longer need to kill all hogs. We can detect which pigs are sick and those are the only ones that should be culled. The unaffected ones need no be killed.) 

The DOST earlier this year provided some P16 million in funding for Bioassets Corp. to develop the test kits and the ASF vaccine. Some returning Filipino scientists were also part of the project, Guevarra noted.

Aside from these, the research firm was also tasked to create a high containment mobile laboratory unit in Mindanao to help respond to outbreaks and fast-track testing using pig's blood.

"Uunahin nila 'yung test kit, 'yung test kit baka sa... the end of the year or early next year," Guevarra said.

(They will prioritize the test kit and maybe it can be released by the end of the year or early next year.)

"'Yung para doon sa vaccine aabutin sila nang mga 2 taon para i-develop 'yan, so baka end of 2023 or 2024 pa natin makikita yang vaccine na 'yan," she added. 

(It may take them 2 years to develop the vaccine so maybe it will be available by the end of 2023 or 2024.)

The official said it was still unclear how much the test kits or the vaccine would cost. But she said the government would shoulder the cost until authorities allow its commercial use.

President Rodrigo Duterte last year declared a nationwide state of calamity due to limited pork supply that raised prices.

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