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Major research project ASF to SVA

Major research project ASF to SVA

A research consortium led by Erika Chinis and Karl Stahl at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, SVA, has received funding from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency to study the management of future outbreaks of African swine fever in wild boar.

In September 2023, African swine fever (ASF) was confirmed in wild boars in Sweden. This was the first time the infection reached Sweden. So far, the outbreak in Sweden appears to be on track to be one of the few successful control campaigns in the ongoing African swine fever epidemic in Europe. All reasons behind the good outcome are unknown, and it is not known how the outbreak would have developed if other restrictions and measures had been implemented, or how a future outbreak would have developed in a different location.

– Although the combat action should be considered a success story, it is clear that it had a widespread negative impact on the affected community. Thanks to this project, we have the opportunity to learn lessons that will be valuable for the future, says Karl Stahl, a government animal epidemiologist at the SVA and one of the initiators of the project.

The project was awarded SEK 8.4 million. The interdisciplinary researchers will collaborate on different sub-projects over three years.

The project will use experiences and data from the ongoing African swine fever outbreak to generate new knowledge that will improve understanding of the consequences of the outbreak and reduce the negative impact of future outbreaks. The results will also be used to improve existing systems to detect and manage outbreaks, says Erika Chinis, a state veterinarian at SVA and the project's lead applicant.

To achieve this, researchers from several different research fields and research institutes will collaborate. Different research methods will be used to study different research questions. The effects of the outbreak and control measures on the local community will be studied through interviews; The economic impacts will be studied through a cost-benefit analysis. The factors that influenced the spread of infection during the outbreak, including how wild boar populations moved and their size and density, will be studied by tracking wild boar movements using GPS and drones. Data modeling will be used to study different African swine fever outbreak scenarios, how they affect the spread of infection and the size of the outbreak, as well as costs.

The various systems already in place for citizen research and wildlife reporting will be examined for improvement so that new introductions of African swine fever can be detected as early as possible. The data and knowledge produced in the project will be analyzed and summarized to see how future outbreak management can be adapted to reduce the impact of the outbreak without increasing the spread of infection and the scale of the outbreak.

– The collaboration format of the project means that we will be able to conduct in-depth analyzes where specialists from different research fields examine different research questions and have interdisciplinary collaboration and dialogue that stimulate new ways of thinking and find new and sustainable solutions to the identified challenges, concludes Erika Chinis.

In the project “Improving the management of future African swine fever outbreaks through partnership and interdisciplinary learning”, researchers at SVA, SLU Grimsö, Stockholm University and Agrifoods at Lund University will collaborate in different sub-projects over three years.

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