Deletion at the 5’-end of Estonian ASFV strains associated with an attenuated phenotype
African swine fever (ASF) was introduced into the Eastern European Union in 2014 and led to considerable mortality among wild boar. In contrast, unexpected high antibody prevalence was reported in hunted wild boar in north-eastern Estonia. One of the causative virus strains was recently characterized. While it still showed rather high virulence in the majority of experimentally infected animals, one animal survived and recovered completely. Here, we report on the follow-up characterization of the isolate obtained from the survivor in the acute phase of infection. As a first step, three in vivo experiments were performed with different types of pigs: twelve minipigs (trial A), five domestic pigs (trial B), and five wild boar (trial C) were inoculated. 75% of the minipigs and all domestic pigs recovered after an acute course of disease. However, all wild boar succumbed to infection within 17 days. Representative samples were sequenced using NGS-technologies, and whole-genomes were compared to ASFV “Georgia 2007/1”. The alignments indicated a deletion of 14560 base pairs at the 5’ end, and genome reorganization by duplication. The characteristic deletion was confirmed in all trial samples and local field samples. In conclusion, an ASFV variant was found in Estonia that showed reduced virulence.