Scientists have launched a project to develop a vaccine for the eventual eradication of the fatal Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP), commonly known as lung plague. The highly contagious bacterial disease present in some 26 countries in Africa is estimated to be costing Africa's 24 million livestock farmers some $2bn a year in losses.
The project, an initiative of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the international Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in partnership with the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Organization (VIDO) of Canada, hopes to develop a vaccine that is affordable, heat stable, easy to administer and with little or no side effects, within the next five years.
“We want to move from just control of the disease to the total eradication of the disease in Africa like the rest of the world has and the team that has been involved in the research has come up with positive feedback that we can indeed eradicate the disease completely from Africa,” said Dr. Peter Ithondeka the director of veterinary services at Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture.
While vaccines for the lung plague do exist, they have not been practical in the African environment. “This explains why the rest of the world has been able to eradicate the disease, but we haven't managed to in our region. The vaccines that exist are not very effective, since, for example, they cannot tolerate climatic conditions in Africa since some need to be transported long distances to reach the livestock farmers. There is therefore need to have a vaccine that is responsive to African conditions,” said Hezron Wesonga, a scientist from KARI who is also a lead researcher in the CBPP vaccine project.
The lung plague is one of the three major cattle plagues with the other two being Rinderpest and Foot and Mouth Disease. Although Rinderpest has been substantially contained, Foot and Mouth is still widespread all over the world, while CBPP has been eradicated from all parts of the world except Africa.
The disease which was introduced to the continent through livestock imports in 1853 has managed to beat scientists on the continent due to its transboundary nature. Livestock owners move livestock from one area to another looking for market and any contact between infected and uninfected livestock leads the disease to spread. Control methods suchas restrictions on animal movement and the use of live vaccines have failed to work effectively in Africa, with studies concluding that the disease cannot be eradicated in African conditions using these control methods since livestock farmers have to keep moving in search of pasture and trade.
“ An outbreak of CBPP in one herd poses a threat to neighbouring herds when movement control is not enforced. The disease has therefore to be controlled from a national and regional approach. Once the effectiveness of this potential vaccine has been demonstrated, stragegies to avail to the farmers will be designed,” said Kenya's Livestock Development Minister in a speech read on his behalf by the director of veterinary services Dr Peter Ithondeka.
The $3.7 million project is being funded and supported by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) under the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund which brings together Canadian and developing countries researchers to produce lasting solutions to combat hunger and food insecurity in the developing world.
“The project combines the vaccine expertise of Canada’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute’s and the Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute’s know-how and skills in infection and handling of cattle with CBPP,” said Hezron Wesonga.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
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