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MAASIN CITY, May 4 (PIA) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) has formed an inter-agency research team to study the possibility of using a popular drug as a vaccine to stop the spread of a virus now widely affecting domestic hogs.

Special Order 310, Series of 2021, was signed April 30 by DA Secretary William Dar, for this purpose, according to Elvie Torres, DA-8 assistant regional director (ARD) for research, regulatory and laboratory services.

The team was tasked to prepare proposals on the use of Ivermectin as ASF booster, and preliminary field trials have been conducted, ARD Torres reported during the virtual Panindugan episode Monday hosted by Olive Tiu, PIA-8 regional director.

Ivermectin drug hugged the primetime TV newscast almost daily, with reports citing it as a potential medication for Covid-19 even as the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged extra caution over its prescription.

Asked whether some LGUs in Eastern Visayas with confirmed ASF cases were included in the trials, Torres cannot tell, saying they have just received the SO.

“Ngayong araw (May 3) wala pa sa ating region, but definitely titigan nila, kasi ASF-infected region na, baka isama nila tayo sa clinical trial,” Torres said, vowing to provide updates on this development.

Earlier, Angel Enriquez, DA regional executive director (RED), reported that as of April 30, some 11,079 hogs had been depopulated, and the agency had paid more than P5 million in indemnity claims.

Nineteen (19) local government units in the region have been affected, in which 16 municipalities were in Leyte province, and one barangay each in Calbayog City, and in the provinces of Southern Leyte and Northern Samar, RED Enriquez shared.

On possible tapering off of ASF in Region 8, the DA officials admitted the disease may be under control based on trending data from months of March and April, when no new cases copped up, the monitoring and surveillance done in close coordination with concerned LGUs.

The month of May has been observed by the agriculture department as Farmers and Fisherfolks Month, and this year’s celebration carried the theme, “May Pandemya man o wala, magsasaka, mangingisda maasahan ng bansa.” (ldl/mmp/PIA8-Southern Leyte)