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Institute of Diagnostic Virology (IVD)

FAO and National Reference Laboratory for Classical Swine Fever (CSF)

Classical swine fever (CSF) is one of the most important viral diseases affecting pigs worldwide. Due to its tremendous socio-economic impact, the disease is notifiable to the World Organization for Animal Health. Within the European Union, prophylactic vaccination is prohibited since 1990, but emergency vaccination is among the legal options. The disease affects only domestic pigs and wild boar.

Classical swine fever is caused by a small enveloped RNA virus of the genus Pestivirus within the Flaviviridae family. Classical swine fever virus is closely related to Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) and Border disease virus that also belong to the genus Pestivirus. This relation can cause problems in CSF diagnosis due to cross reacting antibodies that may lead to false positive laboratory results.

Depending on host and virus factors (e.g. virulence of the isolate involved) as well as the time point of infection (pre- or post-natal), different disease courses can be distinguished. Beside an acute course, the disease can also manifest itself in chronic or “late onset” disease courses. Especially the latter two can be most problematic for clinical diagnosis as they are associated with unspecific clinical symptoms.

Figures from the disastrous CSF epidemic in The Netherlands 1997/98 may illustrate the impact of CSF. In connection with this epidemic and its 429 outbreaks, 12 million pigs were killed. Direct costs amounted to 2.3 billion Euro.

The duties of the National Reference Laboratory for CSF are laid down in the Annex III of Council Directive 2001/89/EC. Among these are:

  • To give advice to national and federal authorities related to CSF control
  • To carry out confirmatory antigen and genome tests
  • To perform serological differential diagnosis (in the of unclear or doubtful results)
  • To collect/produce, validate, and store virus strains and reference sera
  • Batch release of CSF diagnostic tests (e.g. ELISA kits, conjugates) and CSF vaccines
  • Development, optimization, and standardization of CSF-specific test systems
  • Provide training to staff of regional laboratories
  • Conduct national inter-laboratory comparison tests (ring trials)
  • Participate in EU ring trials
  • To take part in working groups and research projects of the European Union
  • Research activities (e.g. optimizaiton of vaccination, pathogenesis)
  • Virus isolation in cell culture
  • Detection of viral genome using real-time RT-PCR
  • Multiplex real-time RT-PCR for the rapid differentiation of field strains from vaccine virus
  • Sequencing and phylogenetic analysis
  • Antibody detection by means of neutralization assays and ELISA
  • Panel of more than 200 reference sera
  • CSFV reference strains and recent virus isolates
  • Sample panels for validation of diagnostic tests (mainly ELISA und PCR)
  • Development and testing of new marker vaccines against CSF
  • Optimization of oral vaccination of wild boar
  • Development of new control strategies for CSF
  • Studies on the pathogenesis of recent CSFV isolates
  • Molecular epidemiology of recent CSFV isolates
  • Optimization of CSF diagnosis from sampling to laboratory tests
  • German decree on the protection against Classical and African swine fever (Schweinepest-Verordnung)
  • Act on notifiable diseases
  • Council Directive 2001/89/EC on Community measures for the control of classical swine fever
  • CSF Diagnostic Manual (Commission Decision 2002/106/EC) and the accompanying Technical Annex