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No new cases in pig disease outbreak
By Zhang Feng and Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-08-02 06:15

No new cases of the streptococcus suis infection were identified in Sichuan Province between noon Sunday and noon yesterday, according to the Ministry of Health.

Health workers identified 17 previously undiagnosed cases, but all these were in people who had already carried the infection for several days.

In another development, scientists in Beijing announced yesterday that they have developed a test for the disease in pigs which takes just four hours to provide results.

By noon yesterday, 198 human cases had been reported in 176 villages in nine cities across Sichuan.

Two more deaths were reported yesterday, and 30 patients are in a serious condition.

In South China's Guangdong Province, one more human case was reported over the weekend, but the patient has already recovered and been discharged from hospital, health officials said.

The man became ill on July 27 in Chao'an County, where he had been slaughtering pigs, they said.

Guangdong is unlikely to have a big outbreak of the epidemic, said Lin Shaorong, a professor at South China Agriculture University.

China has been diligent in supplying information on the situation through daily updates of new case numbers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.

In addition, extensive information from the field investigation has been posted on the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention website.

The type of bacteria that caused the epidemic is commonly found in pigs all over the world and is usually asymptomatic, though it can cause illness and sometimes death, the WHO said.

Early findings from the investigation showed the disease seemed to be passed on through the slaughtering and butchering of infected pigs and the eating of infected pork.

So far there appears to have been no human-to-human contraction of the disease, the WHO said.

Bacteria test method

In a related development, the Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine announced yesterday it has developed a testing method to identify of streptococcus suis in pigs in four hours.

The technique, known as the "multiple PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing method," can be used to screen pigs in an "accurate and convenient" fashion, said a statement by an expert panel that assessed and approved the method yesterday.

PCR is commonly used in labs to diagnose infectious diseases.

"Compared with current testing methods, which take up to four days and sometimes fail to detect the bacteria, the new technique can find all strains of streptococcus suis in a pig in four hours," Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine staffer Han Xueqing said.

It can also differentiate between the infection-causing form of the disease and other strains, said Han, who headed a team that completed the testing project along with the Jiangsu Provincial Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Tian Bo, a senior scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said he believes the test will help stem the spread of the disease in Sichuan.

Wang Daning, president of the Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine, said he expected the technique to be employed by all quarantine branches nationwide over the next week.

"We will establish training workshops in a few days, and we hope the method will soon be known and understood across the quarantine and inspection sector," Wang said.

The new test can be used to ensure meat sent to market is free from the streptococcus suis bacteria, he said.

The Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine is a rapid-response task force under the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

In 2003, when SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) broke out, the academy also worked out a testing method for food products, Wang said.

(China Daily 08/02/2005 page2)

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