Ugandan scientists develop swine fever testing kits for farmers

Swine at a farm. Scientists at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) Nakyesasa in Wakiso District have developed African Swine Fever testing kits to help farmers easily detect the disease and reduce its outbreak. PHOTO/ FILE

Scientists at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) Nakyesasa in Wakiso District have developed African Swine Fever testing kits to help farmers easily detect the disease and reduce its outbreak.
The experts revealed the development during a fact-finding tour at the institute by officials from the Ministry of Agriculture last week.
Mr Kelvin Asiku a laboratory technician at NaLIRRI, who is the principal developer of the kit, said most farmers usually detect African swine fever in their pig sty late.

“In most cases, farmers will rely on blood tests done at the Ministry of Agriculture diagnostic laboratory in Entebbe. This means the farmer will report the sickness to the district veterinary officer who will send a team of experts to pick blood samples. This will be brought to the laboratory and it can take one week or more for it to be tested to get results,”  Mr Asiku said.
Some of the symptoms of the virus in pigs are vomiting, diarrhoea, red or dark skin, particularly on the ears and snout, and discharges from the eyes and nose.

How testing is done
The prototype of the testing kit has conjugate, sample, and glass pads in form of a test tube.
 Once these parts are put together, then chemical reagents consisting of monoclonal antibodies against African swine fever virus antigens are mixed.
The virus is connected to a golden die within the kit and on the strips there are reagents. If it is mixed, it flows through capillary action. Once the virus is present in the blood, it will automatically show.

The process, according to Mr Asiku, is concluded in 10 minutes. With this method, there is no need for laboratory equipment, which costs about Shs500m.
The innovation has so far taken the team two years and in the next year, they hope to have modified the kit to include tests done through faecal matter or urine.
The team, which has developed 5,000 strips, hopes to double the number at the end of the third year.

According to scientists specialising in piggery research, there is no vaccine to prevent the disease.
They advise that in the absence of a vaccine, biosecurity is key for its prevention and control.
Veterinary doctors advise local farmers to manage the disease by confining their herds, restricting their movements, burying carcasses of the infected pigs, and carrying out preliminary disinfection by spraying the premises.

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