Research Communication

First molecular assessment of the African swine fever virus status of Ornithodoros ticks from Swaziland

Carin I. Boshoff, Armanda D.S. Bastos, Mzwandi M. Dube, Livio Heath
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research | Vol 81, No 1 | a846 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ojvr.v81i1.846 | © 2014 Carin I. Boshoff, Armanda D.S. Bastos, Mzwandi M. Dube, Livio Heath | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 July 2014 | Published: 03 December 2014

About the author(s)

Carin I. Boshoff, Agricultural Research Council-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, Transboundary Animal Diseases Programme, South Africa; Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Department of Biomedical Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Armanda D.S. Bastos, Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Mzwandi M. Dube, Central Veterinary Laboratory, Ministry of Agriculture,
Livio Heath, Agricultural Research Council-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, Transboundary Animal Diseases Programme, South Africa


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Abstract

African swine fever (ASF) is an economically significant haemorrhagic disease of domestic pigs. It is caused by the African swine fever virus (ASFV), a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)arbovirus. Argasid ticks of the genus Ornithodoros, which are widely distributed throughout southern Africa, play a primary role in virus maintenance and spread within the endemic sylvatic cycle. The ASF status of Swaziland is unknown, but this land-locked country is surrounded by ASF-positive countries, has a burgeoning pig industry and sylvatic cycle hosts present within its borders. In this first assessment of ASF status, warthog burrows in seven nature reserves and game management areas in Swaziland were investigated for tick and virus presence. Tick infestation rates of between 33.3% – 88.8% were recovered for the four Ornithodoros-infested reserves. A total of 562 ticks were screened for virus genome presence using a duplex Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) that targets the C-terminal end of the p72 gene of the ASFV and confirms DNA integrity through amplification of the 16S rRNA tick host gene. All samples were negative for virus genome presence and positive for the tick genome target. Nucleotide sequencing of the latter confirmed that Ornithodoros ticks from Swaziland are identical to those from the Kruger National Park in South Africa across the gene region characterised. Whilst this first evaluation of ASF presence in Swaziland indicates that the virus does not appear to be present in the key virus vector, the presence of sylvatic cycle hosts, together with the country’s proximity to ASF-affected countries calls for expanded investigations and regular monitoring of the ASF status of Swaziland.

Keywords

African swine fever virus; Ornithodoros porcinus; polymerase chain reaction; Swaziland; p72; 16S; phylogeny

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1. Integrative taxonomy of Afrotropical Ornithodoros (Ornithodoros) (Acari: Ixodida: Argasidae)
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