Ivermectin vs ASF

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - May 3, 2021 - 12:00am

This is the time of the year when my dogs get their annual anti-rabies, five-in-one vaccination shots, and deworming. Earlier on when the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic struck us in March last year, I first learned from my vet that the yearly five-in-one vaccination shot of my dogs included an anti-corona virus component.

The vaccine for adenovirus Type 2 respiratory disease in dogs is mixed in the five-in-one vial of the vets’ vaccine shot as added protection as well as against canine hepatitis. Adenovirus is an infectious virus in dogs commonly known as kennel cough, mostly linked with acute infections of the upper respiratory. Then I discovered that the previous owner of my adopted three-year old Yorkie administered Ivermectin for deworming. Nothing wrong with that. It’s anti-parasitic medicine after all for animals.

But the funny part is there have been so much debate here in our country on the disputed use of Ivermectin as treatment for people sick with COVID-19 infection. And lately, certain public figures came out with their personal testimonials having taken Ivermectin as prophylactic medicine against COVID-19 infection.

In an official statement issued on April 3 this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) cited that the current evidence on the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients is “inconclusive” so far. Thus, the WHO has recommended that Ivermectin be used only “within clinical trials” until such time that “more data is available.”

Based on these guidelines, our own Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has vigorously stood with the WHO position on Ivermectin. And President Rodrigo Duterte fully supported the FDA on this. But with recent pressures built up for the government to allow the use of Ivermectin, the FDA gave in to allow five hospitals to prescribe Ivermectin for “compassionate use” only. President Duterte eventually asked that clinical trials be done also in the Philippines.

The funniest development so far on the raging debate involving Ivermectin broke out last Friday. The Department of Agriculture (DA) announced it is now testing the use of Ivermectin to save hogs stricken by the deadly African Swine Flu (ASF). The DA has formed a research team to conduct preliminary trials using Ivermectin to control and prevent the spread of ASF in the Philippines.

A scientist by profession, Dar created the inter-agency research team under DA special order No. 310 Series of 2021 which he tasked to conduct, among others, preliminary trials using Ivermectin, ASF Buster, Cloud Feed and other agents with pharmacological properties in the prevention and control of ASF. The DA Secretary also tasked the research team to formulate and draft science-based policies for the national guidelines on the use of Ivermectin and other agents against ASF. Dar instructed the newly formed team to collaborate with international research institutions in the conduct of experiments that will determine the safety and efficacy of Ivermectin and other anti-ASF agents to hogs/swines and if any health effects to human consumption.

Earlier this week, the DA disclosed trials for a vaccine against the ASF have started in ten commercial swine farms located in areas previously affected by the virus. The vaccine trial started on April 23 through a collaboration between the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and unidentified US vaccine company. The un-named vaccine has reportedly prevented the virus from killing pigs in early trials in other countries.

According to Google search, the ASF was first discovered in Kenya in 1921, as a new disease causing high mortalities in imported European pigs. The ASF subsequently spread out to sub-Saharan African countries, hence it got tagged as African swine flu. More recently, it has spread to China, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, and Vietnam, as well as within parts of the European Union.

The first cases of ASF in the Philippines have been first found in the piggeries in the Eastern Visayas in July 2019, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH). By September that same year, an outbreak of ASF was reported in several backyard farms in Antipolo, Rizal and other nearby areas surrounding Metro Manila. Initial DA investigations indicated the swill-feeding done by the backyard hog-raisers, especially those located around Metro Manila, quickly spread the ASF virus.

The ASF has been plaguing our local hog industry since then, even before the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores.

Dar submitted to Malacañang on March 17 a draft recommendation to declare a state of public calamity on the ASF epidemic. It has literally been killing the local hog industry as infected pigs were culled and slaughtered to prevent the spread of ASF. These remedial actions against ASF epidemic here are blamed to the uncontrolled spiral of pork prices in the markets while Filipinos cope with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic to our country’s economy. The Proclamation on ASF epidemic is awaiting the signature of President Duterte to enable the national government to institute other extraordinary measures to contain the ASF epidemic.

But what got signed immediately by the President was Executive Order 128 on April 7. While the 18th Congress was not in session, the President invoked his executive powers to lower from the 30 to 40% tariffs to 5 to 20% on imported pork products. The President also has a pending request sent last March 26 to the leaders of the 18th Congress to allow increase in the minimum access volume for imported pork products from the current 54,000 metric tons to 400,000 annually. The Philippines is known to be the world’s seventh-biggest pork importer.

These twin moves are currently discussed in back-channel talks between Malacañang and the Senate. Senator Cynthia Villar, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture, along with other Senators have alleged “tong-pats” syndicate operating at the DA is behind these moves.

Will Ivermectin vs ASF formula of Dar click this time with the Senators?

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