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Brussels, 5 December 2003

Classical swine fever: New test approved

The European Commission today adopted a decision approving a new test to be used after vaccination against classical swine fever (CSF). This test will in the future make it possible, in case of emergency vaccination with a marker vaccine, to distinguish vaccinated pigs from pigs naturally infected with CSF. This distinction is not possible when using conventional vaccination.

European Union (EU) measures for the control of classical swine fever (CSF), laid down in a Council Directive of 2001(1), include the possibility to make use of vaccines in case of an emergency. However, their use is seriously hampered by the possibility that, in case of CSF infection, vaccinated pigs may then further spread the disease, but cannot be distinguished from those that are vaccinated but not infected .

Therefore, certain prevention measures are necessary to avoid the further spread of disease from the areas where vaccine is used. These measures include restrictions on the trade in vaccinated pigs and their products which reduces the viability of vaccination for disease control.

In recent times two new vaccines have been developed and authorized by the Commission which could be potentially used as "marker vaccines" thanks to some specific features. As they only induce antibodies against one of the virus proteins, the vaccinated but CSF infected animals could then be detected by means of an appropriate blood "discriminatory" test. However, tests with these properties have not been available until now.

In 2003 an evaluation of a newly developed discriminatory test has been carried out by the Community Reference Laboratory for CSF in co-operation with the National Reference Laboratories in the Member States. The results of this evaluation show that the sensitivity and specificity of this new blood test are sufficient to allow its successful use in the context of an emergency vaccination with a marker vaccine.

The Commission today approved the use of the new discriminatory test as well as guidelines on the use of the test, so that the use of marker vaccines in conjunction with this test would not pose unacceptable risks in relation to the movements or trade of the vaccinated pigs, their offspring and their products.

Any future use of marker vaccines and the accompanying discriminatory test will remain subjected to an "ad hoc" approval by the Commission, following the submission of an emergency vaccination plan by the Member State concerned after CSF outbreaks.

Background on classical swine fever (CSF)

Classical swine fever is a viral infection of domestic and feral pigs (wild boar) that causes a serious disease with very high mortality. There is no known risk that the CSF virus may cause any disease in humans, but its occurrence in the EU creates an onstacle to internal and international trade and outbreaks can cause significant economic losses. For these and for animal welfare reasons its eradication from the EU is one of the priorities in the animal health area.

In recent years the control of CSF has been difficult in some Member States, in particular in areas with a high density of pigs. In particular, the epidemic which occurred in 1997/98 in the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Italy lead to heavy economic costs and losses for the EU, the Member States and the pig-farmers concerned, due to the killing and destruction of a very high number of animals, which also raised ethical questions. Further serious outbreaks of this disease have occurred in the UK in 2000 and in Spain in 2001/2002.

More information on CSF is available on the internet at:

(1) Council Directive 2001/89/EC of 23 October 2001 - Official Journal L 316 of 1.12.2001

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