Comparative Pathology of Domestic Pigs and Wild Boar Infected with the Moderately Virulent African Swine Fever Virus Strain “Estonia 2014”
Endemically infected European wild boar are considered a major reservoir of African swine fever virus in Europe. While high lethality was observed in the majority of field cases, strains of moderate virulence occurred in the Baltic States. One of these, “Estonia 2014”, led to a higher number of clinically healthy, antibody-positive animals in the hunting bag of North-Eastern Estonia. Experimental characterization showed high virulence in wild boar but moderate virulence in domestic pigs. Putative pathogenic differences between wild boar and domestic pigs are unresolved and comparative pathological studies are limited. We here report on a kinetic experiment in both subspecies. Three animals each were euthanized at 4, 7, and 10 days post infection (dpi). Clinical data confirmed higher virulence in wild boar although macroscopy and viral genome load in blood and tissues were comparable in both subspecies. The percentage of viral antigen positive myeloid cells tested by flow cytometry did not differ significantly in most tissues. Only immunohistochemistry revealed consistently higher viral antigen loads in wild boar tissues in particular 7 dpi, whereas domestic pigs already eliminated the virus. The moderate virulence in domestic pigs could be explained by a more effective viral clearance.