New insights into the role of ticks in African swine fever epidemiology

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    African swine fever (ASF), one of the most important diseases of swine, is present in many African countries, as well as in eastern Europe, Russia and Sardinia. It is caused by a complex virus, ASF virus (ASFV), for which neither vaccine nor treatment is available. ASFV affects swine of all breeds and ages, and also replicates in soft ticks of the genus Ornithodoros, facilitating ASFV persistence and reocurrence of disease. Depending on the involvement of these ticks, and the presence or not of sylvatic asymptomatic animals, several epidemiological cycles have been identified. The disease persists in East and southern African countries in a sylvatic cycle between O. porcinus (of the O. moubata species complex) and common warthogs. In some countries a domestic pig–tick cycle exists, whereas in other regions, notably West Africa, the role of soft ticks has not been demonstrated, and ASFV is transmitted between domestic pigs in the absence of tick vectors. Even in several East and Central African countries which have the sylvatic or domestic cycle, the majority of outbreaks are not associated with ticks or wild suids. In Europe, O. erraticus was detected and identified as a crucial vector for ASF maintenance in outdoor pig production on the Iberian Peninsula. However, in most parts of Europe, there is a lack of information about the distribution and role of Ornithodoros ticks in ASF persistence, particularly in eastern regions. This article reviews ASF epidemiology and its main characteristics, with a special focus on the distribution and role of soft ticks in ASF persistence in different settings. Information about tick detection, control measures and future directions for research is also included.