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LONDON, May 29 (Reuters) - Britain's Pirbright Institute is partnering with Belgian biotechnology company ViroVet to develop the first antiviral drugs that act against African Swine Fever (ASF), according to a joint statement issued on Wednesday.
The viral disease spread to China's pig herd last year, the world's largest. Some analysts predict up to 200 million pigs could die or be culled in the country this year, causing a huge shortage of pork.
There is currently no effective vaccine.
"Without a viable vaccine, ASF is incredibly difficult to control owing to its ability to be spread by wild boar and through the consumption of contaminated pork and other products by pigs," Linda Dixon, head of the African Swine Fever Group at Pirbright, said.
"Having a tool which could lower the risk of further transmission once pigs have been infected would go a long way in preventing the rapid spread of this disease."
Antiviral drugs are already used in human medicine to treat diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis C for which no vaccines are available, and have served as an effective control method for classical swine fever, a similar pig disease. (Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Mark Potter)