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Enhance Testing and Diagnostic System to Prevent African Swine Fever from Invading Taiwan


The Council of Agriculture (COA), Executive Yuan stated that in order to strengthen disease early warning and detection systems after Taiwan seized meat products contaminated with African Swine Fever virus (ASFV) smuggled from Vietnam in August 2021, the COA joined forces with the Customs Administration of the Ministry of Finance and the National Immigration Agency of the Ministry of the Interior, as well as health, police, agriculture, and animal disease control departments of counties and cities across the country, to launch inspections of Vietnamese snack bars, grocery stores, and factory dormitories in their respective jurisdictions. Since August 22 this year, the operation has retained a total of 421 suspected meat products impounded in various counties and cities thus far, which are sent to COA's Animal Health Research Institute (AHRI) and 6 other ASF preliminary screening labs across the country for the detection of ASFV genome using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method. 114 of the 421 cases were sent to the AHRI and 307 cases were sent to the preliminary screening labs. A total of 391 cases resulted negative and 30 cases were positive.

ASF preliminary screening laboratory personnel attending a training class hosted by the AHRI and lectured by Huang Youliang, AHRI’s associate researcher of the Hog Cholera Division.

The COA stated that Taiwan attached great importance to the outbreak when the first case of ASF broke out in China in August 2018. In addition to complying with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standard by establishing the ASFV PCR and other related diagnostic techniques based on OIE’s Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals, it also complies with the ISO 17025 specifications and has obtained TAF laboratory certification. Moreover, the AHRI also integrated the laboratory resources of 4 domestic veterinary schools, the National Cheng Kung University School of Medicine, and the Agricultural Technology Research Institute (ATRI) to establish a total of 6 ASFV preliminary screening laboratories. In order to achieve testing technology uniformity, the AHRI also handles personnel training of the said labs. In addition, each lab is required to conduct 4 proficiency comparison tests annually followed by respective reviews to ensure the testing quality of each lab. Furthermore, the AHRI participates in the ASF Proficiency Testing scheme conducted by international organizations (such as OIE) every year to ensure that Taiwan's diagnostic testing capability meet international standards. The samples of suspected cases can be initially screened by the schools, and those that are tested positive can then be transferred to the AHRI for re-testing and confirmation, so as to effectively divert and expand test capacity.

Preliminary screening laboratory personnel learning the pretreatment procedure (tissue homogenization) of suspected African swine fever specimens.

The COA emphasized that Taiwan has been officially declared a "Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)-free zone where vaccination is not practiced". If the ASFV spreads to Taiwan, in addition to the enormous annual losses that pork production value will suffer, it will also affect various related industries and even affect the livelihood of the general public. Therefore, it is necessary to continue to construct and strengthen the ASF testing and diagnostic system, and at the same time integrate domestic ASF response measures and resources to effectively prevent the disease from entering, so as to ensure the sustainable operation of Taiwan’s animal husbandry.