African swine fever virus survival in buried wild boar carcasses
Since the first introduction of African swine fever (ASF) into the European wild boar population in 1957, the question of virus survival in carcasses of animals that succumbed to the disease has been discussed. The causative African swine fever virus (ASFV) is known to be very stable in the environment. Thus, carcasses of infected wild boar could play a major role as ASFV reservoir and thereby help to locally maintain and spread the disease in wild boar populations. To minimize this risk, removal of wild boar carcasses in ASF affected areas is regarded to be crucial for effective disease control. If removal is not feasible, carcasses are usually disposed by burial on the spot to avoid direct contact of wild boar to the infection source. In this study, carcasses of ASFV infected wild boar buried in Lithuania at different time points and locations have been excavated and retested for the presence of infectious ASFV by in‐vitro assays and for viral genome by qPCR. Soil samples potentially contaminated by body fluids have been additionally tested for viral genome. In seventeen out of twenty burial sites, samples of excavated carcasses were positive for ASFV genome. However, in none of the carcass samples ASFV could be isolated. On seven sites soil samples contained ASF viral DNA. These results unexpectedly negate the long‐term persistence of infectious ASFV in wild boar carcasses independent from the burial time. In this context, sensitivity of ASFV isolation from carcass samples versus susceptibility of animals and doses needed for oral inoculation have to be further investigated. Furthermore, research is required to consider alternative ASF infection sources and drivers in the infection cycle among wild boar.