Taiwan develops Asia's first ASF rapid test kit

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(By Central News Agency)

A Taiwanese biotechnology company said Saturday that a rapid test kit it has developed for African swine fever (ASF) has been recognized by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), making it the first such test provider in Asia.

According to Excelsior Bio-System (EBS), Inc., its kit can diagnose in 10 minutes if a live hog has contracted ASF, even if the animal is still in the incubation period, through detecting the presence of antibodies against the ASF virus protein p30.

The testing method can ascertain a case of ASF as early as 14 days after a hog is infected, said company executive Chang Chuan-hsing (張權星), adding that this is better than the world's other existing rapid test kit, which was developed in Spain.

The Spanish diagnostic system targets antibodies against the ASF virus protein p72, which is generated later in the development of ASF, Chang explained.

The incubation period for ASF ranges from four to 19 days, and specific antibodies can be detectable from day seven, Chang said.

While the Taiwanese rapid test kit does not have to be conducted in a laboratory and can be conveniently applied in various environments such as airports or farms, it works only with live animals, according to the company.

As Taiwan is not an ASF endemic area and has only reported ASF in dead hogs that have washed ashore from China and in meat products brought in by travelers, there are no plans for the government to use the test kit at the moment, said the Council of Agriculture.

Taiwan has adopted stiff fines against those attempting to bring pork products from ASF-affected areas into the country, including a fine of NT$200,000 (US$6,484) for first-time offenders and NT$1 million for repeat offenders.