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Japan to use marker vaccine in battle against swine fever epidemic

JIJI, Staff Report

The farm ministry plans to use a marker vaccine for swine fever to make it easier to identify unvaccinated pigs, in the face of the ongoing epidemic of the disease in the country, officials have said.

The ministry asked the Cabinet Office’s Food Safety Commission on Tuesday to examine the safety of meat from pigs given the marker vaccine.

The commission could draw a conclusion as soon as this year. The ministry will then conduct tests on the vaccine for several months. The vaccine will be put into use once it is confirmed to be effective in the tests.

A marker vaccine allows vaccinated animals and those that have been naturally infected to be differentiated through blood tests. There have been some cases of vaccinated animals still becoming infected with types of the virus that are prevalent in the wild, but a marker vaccine can differentiate animals infected by such viruses in the field by identifying the types of antibodies present.

What that means in practice is that uninfected animals wouldn’t need to be culled, according to the Corporation for Production and Research of Laboratory Primates.

The new vaccine, developed by a U.S.-based drug company using genetic engineering, costs several times as much as existing vaccines.

Its safety and effectiveness have been certified in several other countries, although the vaccine has yet to see use there partly because the countries have seen no swine fever outbreak in recent years, according to ministry officials.

Japan’s ministry is now working to revise the country’s epidemic control guidelines, ideally within this year, to allow pre-emptive vaccine use.

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