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Wolves can help fight African Swine Fever: scientists

New research conducted by scientists from universities in Warsaw and Gdańsk shows that wolves can be helpful in reducing the African Swine Fever (ASF), because they hunt wild boars and eat their carcasses, eliminating potential sources of spreading the virus in the environment, while not spreading it themselves.

African Swine Fever (ASF), caused by African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) from the is one of the most dangerous swine diseases. In recent years, the virus has rapidly spread to wild boar populations and then to pig farms in eastern and central Europe, causing significant economic losses. Tens of millions of euros are spent annually on the fight against ASF. The money is spent on farming biosecurity, veterinary research, disposal of dead pigs and wild boars, as well as the reduction of the wild boar population.

Scientists were interested if the virus could survive in the wolf’s digestive system – and, consequently, whether it could be spread through their faeces. This topic was addressed by a team of virologists, geneticists and environmental biologists from the University of Gdańsk, the University of Warsaw and the Roztocze National Park. The results of their research have just been published in the scientific journal “Viruses”.

Using telemetry data regarding two wolves the scientists found the remains of nine wild boars, eaten by these predators. They determined that eight of them were infected with ASF. Afterwards they collected 62 fresh wolf droppings, mostly in ASF-restricted areas. Among them, twenty contained the remains of wild boars, and thirteen were in the vicinity of the ASF ridden boar carcasses. Faeces were subsequently analysed. However, ASF virus material was not detected in any of the trials tested.

“Our research suggests that the virus is not able to survive in the digestive system of wolves. As a result, wolves do not spread the ASF virus through their faeces,” Professor Bogusław Szewczyk from the University of Gdańsk concluded.

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