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Purdue professor granted $1M for swine fever test

Mohit Verma, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University, is developing tools to detect African swine fever. (photo courtesy of Purdue University/Tom Campbell)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – A team of Purdue University researchers are working to develop a rapid, pen-side test for African swine fever, a highly contagious swine disease in the Dominican Republic. Mohit Verma, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue, has been awarded a $1 million grant for the project.

The grant comes from the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program.

Purdue says the test will help quickly identify and contain the disease, which is critical to stopping its spread. While the disease does not infect humans, it can wipe out pork production in a region.

“A rapid test that can be done in the field is needed for surveillance and diagnosis of African swine fever,” said Verma. “When it hit China a few years ago, it wiped out 50% of the country’s pig population. It is a devastating disease, and hours, even minutes, matter in containing it.”

Mohit Verma, professor in Purdue’s College of Agriculture. (photo courtesy of Purdue University)

Verma and his team, which includes Purdue scientists Darryl Ragland, associate professor of veterinary medicine, and Jonathan Alex Pasternak, assistant professor of animal sciences, are working to create a portable paper-strip test for the disease. Purdue says Verma has had prior success developing similar tests for COVID-19 and Bovine Respiratory Disease.

“We’re working on a test that will detect the virus within 30 minutes and indicate results through an easy-to-see color change on a paper strip,” Verma said. “The ease of use, test timing and size are similar to those of an at-home pregnancy test or COVID-19 test.”

According to Verma, a saliva or blood sample is mixed with primers and reagents developed by the team and gently heated. The paper strip changes colors if African swine fever DNA is present.

Verma says he hopes to create a test that will be easy to administer, as well as affordable and accessible.