African swine fever, now confirmed to be in South Korea despite the best efforts of local authorities, causes hemorrhagic fever, and kills almost every pig that contracts it.
There have been cases of pigs dying as quickly as one week after becoming infected, but despite the devastating nature of the disease, there is no known treatment or vaccine on the market.
But given the technology available to modern science, why is that the case?
Well, experts say compared to other viruses, the African Swine Fever virus is large in structure.
Viruses like ASF contain several genotypes,.. which means there are numerous types of proteins that the virus can produce in the animal's body.
These proteins act as a defensive shield for the virus, which makes it extremely complex to fight.
"ASF doesn't mutate often. However, because the DNA structure of the virus is so complex, it produces a variety of antigens. It is difficult for the animals' immunity systems to fight back."
Compared to foot-and-mouth disease which can produce more than ten types of proteins, African swine fever can produce more than 200.
Also, aside from the recent outbreaks in Europe and in China, the virus mainly affected the African continent in the past, which could explain why well-funded research institutes in the West and Asia have focused their efforts elsewhere.
Currently, work on a vaccine is being expedited in the U.S., China and Europe, but experts warn that, even if a vaccine can be formulated, it will take some time for it to be approved and go into mass production.
Researchers also caution that, because African Swine Fever is capable of destroying immune cells, any vaccine that could be developed might not be 100 percent effective.
Lee Seung-jae, Arirang News.