African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious viral disease of swine which causes high mortality, approaching 100%, in domestic pigs. ASF is caused by a large, double stranded DNA virus, ASF virus (ASFV), which replicates predominantly in the cytoplasm of macrophages and is the only member of the Asfarviridae
family, genus Asfivirus
. The natural hosts of this virus include wild suids and arthropod vectors of the Ornithodoros
genus. The infection of ASFV in its reservoir hosts is usually asymptomatic and develops a persistent infection. In contrast, infection of domestic pigs leads to a lethal hemorrhagic fever for which there is no effective vaccine. Identification of ASFV genes involved in virulence and the characterization of mechanisms used by the virus to evade the immune response of the host are recognized as critical steps in the development of a vaccine. Moreover, the interplay of the viral products with host pathways, which are relevant for virus replication, provides the basic information needed for the identification of potential targets for the development of intervention strategies against this disease.
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