Taking in consideration the relevance of African swine fever as a major threat to pig husbandry, lately enhanced by the disease dissemination in Eastern Europe and to EU countries (Lithuania, Poland, Latvia and Estonia), a workshop on African swine fever, aiming at improving awareness of relevant aspects of the disease of  chief veterinary  officers (CVOs)  and heads of diagnostic laboratories, was organized on May 21st 2015, at the National Research Institute for Veterinary Virology and Microbiology of Russia (VNIIVViM) in Pokrov, Russian Federation.

One hundred and sixteen participants (104 from the Russian Federation and 14 from Belarus) attended the workshop that was coordinated by Prof. Denis Kolbasov, Director of  VNIIVViM and for which, scientists of the ASFORCE project have contributed aiming at drawing the attention of participants to relevant issues on ASF  and providing opportunity for discussion aiming at improving awareness for ASF prevention and control.

Prof. Denis Kolbasov introduced the main goals of the workshop and reinforced the relevance of the knowledge on ASF practical aspects towards a better comprehension and decision making on prevention and control of ASF.

Professor Carlos Martins (FMV-ULisboa, Portugal), the coordinator of ASFORCE introduced the main goals and strategies of the project and he also presented an historical review on ASF in Portugal from the 50’s and 60’s to early 90’s when it was eradicated in the country. Main emphasis was drawn to the successful organization and implementation of prevention, control and eradication measures taking also in consideration the role soft ticks have in the epidemiology of the disease.

Dr. Marisa Arias (CISA-INIA, Spain), introduced a brief overview of the disease and some key points identified by the research developed under ASFORCE regarding the epidemiology of the disease namely on the role of the wild boar in its spread, the molecular epidemiology data allowing the identification of current circulating isolates in Eastern Europe and the clinical signs and pathology findings in the ASFV infected wild boar and domestic pigs. Special emphasis was given to the need of an efficient and early diagnosis of the disease in the field and in the laboratory for which the project has contributed through the organization of different courses and workshops targeting field veterinarians and by developing more sensitive diagnostic tools that complement those currently available. Finally she gave an overview on important gaps and needs to be filled concerning the laboratory validation of diagnostic tools for ASF on field samples.

During her presentation, Dr. Linda Dixon (Pirbright Institute, UK), included a summary of previous work directed towards an ASF vaccine development and the related work carried out in the ASFORCE project. The latter included information on the approaches used to delete additional genes from already attenuated viruses NHP68 and OURT88/3 and deletion of single or multiple genes from virulent genotype I isolate Benin97/1. The genes deleted include several which inhibit the type I interferon response. In addition she described the development of the DISC approach for vaccine development (Defective Infectious Single Cycle Virus), which involves the construction of a cell line expressing an essential gene and the use of this cell line to delete the essential gene from the virus genome. Thus virus is obtained which can productively infect the helper cell line but when used to inoculate pigs, it  enters cells and expresses proteins to generate an immune response but does not disseminate in animals.  Finally she described the in silico approach to identify predicted T cell epitopes and the approaches for constructing recombinant orthopoxviruses and parvovirus virus- like particles and test these by prime and boost for immunogenicity and protection against lethal challenge.

Dr. Sandra Blome (FLI, Germany) covered clinical and pathomorphological presentations of ASF in wild boar under experimental conditions, the possible role of wild boar in the transmission and maintenance of ASF, pragmatic sampling schemes, and diagnostic work flows. Later she presented a review on EU legislation regarding control and eradication of ASF, with particular focus on the Council Directive 2002/60/EC and the EU Diagnostic Manual

Dr. Jorge Pinto Ferreira (SAFOSO, Switzerland), introduced initially the basic/key concepts of a stakeholders engagement process on ASF prevention, control and eradication. In the second part of his talk he highlighted the main knowledge dissemination and training activities that were or will be done under the ASFORCE project, including for example the different workshops organized, the 3 modules online course available on the ASFORCE  website, and the new disease awareness video (soon to be available).

At the end of presentations, and with the participation of all speakers, Prof.  Denis Kolbasov, conducted a very fruitful discussion with all the participants on the different topics introduced. Several questions were raised on the different aspects covered, namely on ASF epidemiological details and on the needs for a better awareness of all the stakeholders involved in the disease prevention and control.

This workshop attracted the interest of the Russian media that made a wide dissemination of its realization (http://www.vladtv.ru/#/society/69709/ ).