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Rapid test kit seen boosting fight against ASF

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said it is investing P80 million for the mass production and distribution of a rapid test kit for African swine fever (ASF) developed by the Central Luzon State University (CLSU).

“We are allocating an initial P80 million through the DA-National Livestock Program [NLP]  and Bureau of Animal Industry [BAI] to mass-produce and distribute to local government units [LGUs] the test kit, called ‘ASFV Nanogold Biosensor,’” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said in a statement.

“We commend the team from the Central Luzon State University in partnership with the DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry who developed the ASF rapid test kit,” the DA chief added.

The mass distribution of the ASF test kits is part of the DA’s biosecurity and surveillance program to address the ASF situation in the country dubbed BABay ASF or Bantay ASF sa Barangay.

Dar said part of the P80 million would be provided by the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) in partnership with other interested private firms and state universities and colleges (SUCs).

The rapid test kit was developed by CLSU and BAI, which are “easy to use” and “can differentiate ASF virus from hog cholera and other swine-related viruses.”

DA-NLP head and Agriculture Undersecretary for Livestock William Medrano said the CLSU-BAI team will soon acquire robotic equipment to produce the test kit.

“With this development, the DA-BAI personnel and LGU veterinarians can now administer the kit for biosecurity measures, profiling of farms for repopulation, and surveillance and monitoring activities, at a much faster rate right at the so-called ‘ground-zero’ and more economical,” Dar said.

“We can even have these test kits on standby at the port of entries for a quick sampling of the meat products entering the country,” he added.

The DA said the ASF  test kit costs P3,500 which comes with all consumables and is good for 10 samples. The DA added that each sample can pool a five surface swabs, saliva, or feces as long as these come from the same pen or farm for traceability. Due to this the cost per sample is only at P70, according to the DA.

The DA said the rapid test kits utilize nucleic acid-based test and has a built-in DNA extraction and molecular amplification process that uses primers or markers, whose gene sequence was designed from the P72 gene of the ASF virus isolated from the province of Rizal.

The DA added that rapid test kit can detect the presence of ASF even through surface swabbing of pig barns and delivery trucks, saliva, and nasal swabs, feces, water, semen, feeds, aspirated whole blood, or blood-soaked swabs and even domestic flies.

The DA said the rapid test kits were tested in 32 commercial and 9 backyard farms in Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija, all of these provinces have been affected by ASF.

“To ensure efficacy, the test kits were tested on surface swabs taken from nipple drinkers, walls, railings, floors, and pig ways of barns; water samples of farms; ASF contaminated floor sweepings and feeds; saliva, nasal swabs, and feces of pigs; processed, fresh and canned meat that were confiscated at the airport and domestic flies that alighted on dead carcasses,” it said.

“Preliminary results showed high accuracy and detection rate using the test kits,” it added.

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