The CTTBD ECF vaccine: Responding to poor livestock keepers’ needs

Written by: Dr Victor Mbao, Programme Manager, Large Ruminants, GALVmed

The Centre for Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases (CTTBD) is currently producing the ‘one shot for life’ Muguga trivalent (cocktail) East Coast Fever vaccine. With substantial technical and business support from GALVmed, CTTBD now houses state of the art production and research equipment and re-trained personnel. But CTTBD is not merely producing the vaccine originally developed by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other institutions such as KARI.  CTTBD is actively researching how to improve the vaccine so that it responds to the needs of millions of small-scale livestock keepers and provide more practical ways of accessing the much sought after tick-derived ECF vaccine.

When you visit livestock keepers throughout Africa, one of their biggest cries is for a cheaper vaccine. But the most important factor to acknowledge is that these small-scale livestock keepers find it very difficult, almost close to impossible to meet the prerequisite of gathering together the minimum number of cattle required for a vaccination to take place before a 40 dose pack can be reconstituted. This is because most small-scale livestock famers do not own more than a few cattle per household and in most cases, the households are far apart making. In short, these farmers are calling for a cheaper, smaller dose pack of this life saving vaccine.

CTTBD has in the past six years improved one of the Zambian ECF vaccine stocks (Chitongo) by fine tuning the production process to see a fivefold increase in the number of doses from a vaccine unit volume. The Centre has now embarked on research to improve the Muguga Cocktail vaccine in ways that address small-scale livestock keepers’ needs. Ongoing research is looking into several fronts where this can be achieved including:

Smaller dose packs

CTTBD is in the process of investigating smaller dose packs. One approach is by simply packing the vaccine in smaller containers (straws) that will halve the volume. Towards this, a number of 0.25ml straws were filled with vaccine during the last production and are now under test both for viability of the vaccine in comparison to the traditional 0.5ml pack as well as user friendliness in the field. There is also research focussing on effects of pre-diluting the vaccine or simply reducing the number of ticks used in a unit volume.

Cheaper, simpler diluent

CTTBD is also testing alternative ECF vaccine diluents. The current diluent has the same constituents as the vaccine medium and requires to be frozen. This makes it very expensive and cumbersome for distribution. Currently, four potentially cheaper alternatives are under study including their respective shelf-lives at ambient temperatures.

Over the horizon continually peeps the possibility of removing the need for liquid nitrogen in the storage and delivery of the vaccine, a major component of the delivery cost. This will keep CTTBD on its research toes but we shall cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, CTTBD is wading waist deep in the process of improving the vaccine to tackle this lethal disease that kills millions of cattle in Africa.


Follow CTTBD’s launch on Friday 5th December. Use the Twitter hashtag #cttbdmalawi to find out more before, during and after the event!

CTTBD:The Complete Full Circle

Written by: Dr Hameed Nuru, Senior Director of Policy and External Affairs at GALVmed

Since 2008, GALVmed has taken on the daunting challenge of trying to facilitate the control of East Coast Fever (ECF) in Eastern Africa. I joined GALVmed in 2009 with a burning desire to see that challenge through to fruition and to show that things can be done, and done well, in the African livestock sector.

In 2009, and for three decades before that, ECF was not only an economic disease, but also a very political disease with actors all working independently and against each other. This resulted in a relatively simple disease not being controlled effectively and livestock keepers – poor and affluent alike – facing the wrath of an easily controllable disease. ECF actually has three methods of control (unlike most livestock diseases):

1. Prevent the tick with dip solutions (Acaricides)

2. Treat affected animals once sick with drugs

3. Vaccinate using the Muguga cocktail ECF ITM vaccine.

GALVmed opted to go for the vaccination approach because, as we all know, vaccination is far more effective and prevention is better than cure.

A lot of things had to be put in place to ensure that vaccination was to stand out as a preferred method of control. Over the years, GALVmed has:

–          Engaged with partners and stakeholders at all levels from research to farmers

–          Prepared a comprehensive dossier used for vaccination registration with regulatory authorities (the vaccine has been registered for the first time in Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania– conditional in Uganda)

–          Facilitated the formation and support to the ECF regional task force

–          Paved the way for distributors to be officially recognised and accredited by governments

–          Assisted in the training of dozens of vaccinators in East Africa

–          Significantly played a role in refurbishing, training and equipping the CTTBD from scratch to the point at which now the vaccine is being produced at a commercial level under quality assured production standards

It has been a very long and tumultuous road, but finally the circle has become full, with the launch of the newly refurbished, ready-to-go, state-of-the-art CTTBD Malawi.

I am so glad GALVmed and I had a role in this.

Follow CTTBD’s launch on Friday 5th December. Use the Twitter hashtag #cttbdmalawi to find out more before, during and after the event!

Time for African livestock keepers to take control of their own destiny

By: Abdallah Said Twahir, Director of Market Development and Access at GALVmed

The Centre for Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases, or just CTTBD as it is better known, is in the outskirts of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. It produces a unique vaccine against a killer livestock disease responsible for large numbers of deaths in cattle. East Cost Fever (ECF or Ndigana as it is known in parts of Kenya and Tanzania) is responsible for over 1 million cattle deaths a year with considerable consequences on livestock keepers’ livelihoods.

However, a solution is available. A vaccine referred to as the ECF-ITM involves infecting an animal with disease-causing organisms and then treating the animal with a long-acting antibiotic to produce lifelong immunity.

It takes over 18 months to produce the vaccine at a considerable cost. The vaccine is expensive BUT not as expensive as the cost and effects of loss of livelihoods to the livestock keeper.

For many people in Africa, livestock is a measure of wealth and a significant source of food through milk and meat. It is time for the livestock keeper in Africa to take control of their destinies and their own livelihoods. Often, the livestock keeper leaves the responsibility of vaccinations to the government. Yet when the pastoralist is out and about in search of pasture, he constructs a boma, a ring of thorny bushes to protect livestock against predators (lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas). They don’t leave that to the government. It is this change in mind set that is required to move forward to a brighter future. A future of many possibilities. A future of wealth and health. CTTBD is the partner to that future.

And before you ask, it is NOT time to duplicate this kind of facility all over Africa. It is time to consolidate our resources for efficiency and effectiveness. It is time to support the CTTBD for the sake of all livestock keepers in Africa.