Scientists from the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute in South Africa and the University of Alberta in Canada announced the development of a combination vaccine at the Research to Feed Africa Symposium held in the town of Naivasha in Kenya from June 23 to June 27. This vaccine will offer protection from five major livestock diseases: Lumpy Skin Disease, Rift Valley Fever, Peste des Petits Ruminants, Sheep Pox and Goat Pox.
These five diseases greatly impact the health of cattle, sheep and goats across the entire African continent, where 12 of the 16 most devastating animal diseases exist. Although many of these diseases are viral and prohibit areas from developing agriculturally, this innovative vaccine will be affordable, heat-stable and the provider of long-term protection against five livestock diseases.
Farmers in developing countries have much more difficulty acquiring and using effective vaccines when compared to commercial farmers. These emerging livestock farmers are typically not aware of how important vaccines are in protecting the health of livestock, and they encounter other difficulties such as high costs and the uncertainty of how to properly use and store vaccines in a constant cold-chain to ensure their effectiveness.
According to senior scientist at the OVI David Wallace, “For our vaccines to be effectively used by emerging rural farmers, education in livestock care and vaccine use is critical and we expect greater food and economic security through improved animal health.”
Along with being a vital element in primary animal health care, vaccines will also protect a key source of income for many African farmers. Especially in developing countries, livestock not only provide food and clothing, but they are also used as a measure of wealth and social standing within farming communities, showing the diverse use and socio-economic importance of livestock.
This single vaccine only requires one dose, and when compared to the typical three or four doses required for a vaccine, many experts are hopeful that African farmers will take advantage of this cost-effective health measurement.
Many scientists are also hopeful that the results of this new vaccine will be groundbreaking throughout all of Africa as it already has a success rate of 80 percent just from the pilot studies and trials conducted in contained conditions in northern Kenya. Within the first stage of development, the vaccine already protects livestock against Lumpy Skin Disease, Sheep Pox and Goat Pox. Researchers are now hopeful that it will also protect livestock against Rift Valley Fever and Peste des Petits Ruminants in the second stage of development.
Another new vaccine targeting African swine fever is within the first stage of development supervised by researchers from the OVI and the University of Alberta, but progress toward this vaccine is harder to achieve since the virus’s protective components are still unknown.
All of this research was made possible through the 3.1 million Canadian dollars donated by the Canadian International Security Research Fund through the Canadian International Development Research Centre between March 2012 and August 2014. As the second stage of development begins for the five-in-one vaccine, researchers are hoping to receive more funding so the vaccine can reach 100 percent efficacy in protecting livestock against these five diseases.
– Meghan Orner