UNL research aims to complete pig’s antibody profile against ASF

Project will identify viral proteins that are immunogenic, that trigger the pig's immune system to generate antibodies against African swine fever.


National Hog Farmer

Jun 20, 2022


As a teenager decades ago on his family's swine farm in Vietnam, Hiep Vu saw firsthand the benefits of vaccinating livestock. His parents had gradually increased the size of their operation, and when they inoculated their animals, the positive results struck Vu.


"It amazed me at that time how vaccines work," says Vu, now an assistant professor of animal science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He earned a degree in Vietnam to become a veterinarian, but his scientific interests broadened into animal-focused immunology.


"I started to be interested in working on vaccines," he says, "because that is the most cost-effective way to protect from infectious diseases."


At Nebraska, Vu received his master's degree in veterinary science and, in 2013, a doctorate in integrative biomedical sciences. He is now an expert in swine viruses. He is also a faculty member with the Nebraska Center for Virology and an associate editor for the Journal of Medical Virology. For his extensive research into porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, he received two patents connected to vaccine development.


Now, Vu is embarking on a collaborative, federally funded project to fill in a major knowledge gap that has hindered development of a vaccine for African swine fever. ASF stands out for its extraordinary mortality. The disease doesn't affect humans, but when it affects a swine supply, only a handful of pigs survive.


Experience with the disease this century shows that the fallout for swine production can be catastrophic. When ASF struck parts of Asia in 2018, South Korea wound up destroying 47,000 pigs. China, the world's largest swine producer, culled a staggering number of the animals — an estimated 225 million. In all, ASF reduced the world's pig supply by nearly 25% between 2018 and 2019...