Researchers find pig gene needed for ASF virus
ASF is a fast-acting and severe virus which causes widespread illness and death.

The gene may lead to development of pigs resistant to infection.

Researchers have identified a gene in pigs’ DNA which is needed for African Swine Fever (ASF) to replicate.

The discovery of this gene, which is involved in the pig immune system, could lead to the development of pigs that are resistant to ASF.

ASF is a fast-acting and severe virus which causes widespread illness and death, and has caused high losses for the pork industry.

The infection has already killed more than 200 million pigs worldwide, and is currently a major issue across Asia. It has the potential to cause outbreaks in Europe and America.

There is currently no vaccine or treatment available.

The finding raises the potential of amending the gene, using gene editing, to develop ASF-resistant pigs.

The research was led by the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute in Germany alongside the Roslin Institute, which is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

The researchers examined a collection of pig cells, with each cell edited to lack a specific gene, to investigate how they responded to the ASF virus.

This analysis identified a suite of genes, known as the MHC-II complex, which produce proteins that are associated with the immune response to infections that were key to the virus.

This led them to a single protein in the MHC-II complex known as SLA-DM, which was essential to the replication of the virus in the cells.

The group hopes that editing this gene may allow for the development of pigs which are resistant to ASF, to mitigate the impact of the virus.

They believe that further research should aim to understand the biological processes in which SLA-DM proteins and virus particles interact.

Dr Finn Grey, of the Roslin Institute, said: “Our study identifies target genes for editing to develop pigs resistant to African Swine Fever.

“Although more work is required, this finding represents an important first step towards the generation of ASF-resistant pigs.”

The full study can be found in the Scientific Reports journal.

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