Stability of African swine fever virus on heat-treated field crops
African swine fever (ASF) is an infectious disease of pigs and represents a massive threat to animal health and the pig industry worldwide. The ASF virus (ASFV) is efficiently transmitted via blood and meat from infected animals and can be highly stable in the environment. There is therefore great concern about the potential role of contaminated raw materials used for feed or bedding in the spread of ASFV. Especially crops and derived products originating from areas with ASF in wild boar and thus with high environmental ASFV-contamination may be a risk for virus introduction into domestic pig herds. However, little is known about the stability of ASFV on contaminated crops and possible inactivation methods. In this study, we tested the effect of drying and heat treatment on the inactivation of ASFV on six different types of field crops, namely wheat, barley, rye, triticale, corn, and peas, contaminated with infectious blood. Samples were analyzed for the presence of viral DNA and infectious virus after two hours drying at room temperature or after drying and one hour exposure to moderate heat at a specific temperature between 40°C and 75°C. ASFV genome was detected in all samples by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), including samples that had been dried for two hours and incubated for one hour at 75°C. On the other hand, no infectious virus could be detected after two hours drying using virus isolation in porcine macrophages in combination with the detection of ASFV by the haemadsorption test (HAT). We therefore conclude that the risk of ASFV transmission via contaminated crops is most likely low, if they are incubated for at least two hours minimum at room temperature. Nonetheless, to minimize the risk of transmission as much as possible crops from ASF-affected zones should not be used for pig feed.