USA, West Lafayette. A team of Purdue University researchers developing a rapid, pen-side test to detect the highly contagious African Swine Fever (ASF) in pigs just received a US$1 million research grant from the USDA.
According to a recent press release from Purdue University, Mohit Verma, an assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the University, received a US$1 million research grant from the USDA's National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) and the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP).
"A rapid test that can be done in the field is needed for surveillance and diagnosis of African swine fever," he said. "When it hit China a few years ago, it wiped out 50% of the country's pig population. It is a devastating disease, and hours, even minutes, matter in containing it."
The research funding was included in the US Farm Bill to build up the nation's ability to detect and respond to high-consequence diseases quickly.
"This was the first time to my knowledge that a joint operation between these two organizations was included in the farm bill," Verma said. "It shows how seriously the US is taking the risk from African swine fever."
Verma is collaborating with Purdue scientists Darryl Ragland, associate professor of veterinary medicine, and Jonathan Alex Pasternak, an assistant professor of animal sciences, to create a portable paper-strip test for the disease. The project follows Verma's development of similar tests for COVID-19 and Bovine Respiratory Disease.
A saliva or blood sample will be used for the test. Within a cartridge, the sample is mixed with primers and reagents developed by the team and gently heated. The included paper strip then changes colours if African swine fever DNA is present, Verma explained.
Verma's startup company Krishi Inc is licensing the technology. The startup recently received US$100,000 from the Purdue Ag-Celerator fund.