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Pathology of African Swine Fever in Wild Boar Carcasses Naturally Infected with German Virus Variants

In 2020, African swine fever (ASF) was first identified in German wild boar, reaching a case number of about 4400 to date. Upon experimental infection, pathology is well documented; however, data on field infections are scarce in domestic pigs and not available from wild boar, respectively. Although the ASF viral genome is considered exceptionally stable, a total of five lineages with 10 distinct virus variants of genotype II have emerged in Eastern Germany. To investigate the pathology in naturally infected wild boar and to evaluate virus variants II, III and IV for their virulence, wild boar carcasses were obtained from three different outbreak areas. The carcasses underwent virological and pathomorphological investigation. The animals revealed characteristic ASF lesions of the highest severity accompanied by bacterial infections in several cases. In particular, wild boar infected with variant IV from Spree-Neiße (SN) district showed lower viral genome loads and total viral antigen scores, but simultaneously tended to reveal more chronic lesions. Our findings indicate a protracted course of the disease at least after infection with variant IV, but need confirmation under standardized experimental conditions. There is a strong need to monitor differences in the virulence among variants to identify potential attenuation that might complicate diagnosis. In addition, veterinarians, hunters and farmers need to be made aware of less acute courses of ASF to consider this as an important differential to chronic classical swine fever.



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