How do you solve a problem like rabies in India?

By: Dr Mamta Dhawan, GALVmed Regional Manager: South Asia

Thirty years ago I lost an uncle to rabies. His pet dog was not vaccinated against rabies and he licked a scratch on my uncle’s knee leading to a very painful death. Just five years back, in a rural area, a farmer was attacked by a rabid dog while working in his fields. He did not seek appropriate treatment due to lack of awareness and died soon after.  This was not registered as a death due to rabies because he did not go to a hospital. Rabies, once contracted, cannot be cured and results in death. In India, there are 20,000 people dying of rabies every year. This is 36% of the total human rabies deaths worldwide! Has nothing changed in India in these 30 years?

In spite of this, no national programme on rabies has been announced.  Rabies control is slightly complex in India as it involves both humans and animals – mostly stray dogs. In India, dogs are most often the carrier while the disease manifests in humans as well as other mammals. Post-bite anti -rabies treatment, including vaccinations for humans, are provided free of charge in public hospitals.

For any rabies control programme, multi-sector collaboration would be needed. This would include Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, municipal corporations in the cities and, of course, civil society organisations for last mile delivery of services. In India, the large stray dog population often carries rabies but nothing is done to address this health and safety concern! Until this issue is addressed, rabies cannot be controlled effectively!

The best option is to vaccinate the dogs. This is easier said than done! Trained dog catchers are difficult to find as it is not a profession of choice for people. There are also few vaccinators and the number of dogs that need to be caught to be vaccinated is huge. Moreover, even if one manages to vaccinate dogs in an area, the rate at which they breed (every six months a litter is produced) will create a strain on vaccinators. Therefore, when dogs are vaccinated against rabies, they should also be neutered or spayed as the case may be. This means that there is a need for trained vets and the resources to fund this programme. While funds for the human side of rabies control are forthcoming, no one is ready to foot the bill for curtailing the dog population or vaccinating them!

A comprehensive policy on rabies control in India should cover:

a) Provision for post-bite treatment to humans

b) Vaccination of stray dogs

c) Control of dog population through spaying and neutering

d) Mass rabies awareness programme and

e) Provision for resources to do the above.

This blog post is written in support of World Rabies Day on 28th September 2015. This year’s theme is Ending Rabies Together. The Global Alliance for Rabies Control are holding worldwide events to raise awareness and to promote prevention activities in at-risk communities. To find out more about the day, follow #EndRabies on Twitter and join the conversation.

Bringing the benefits of a poultry vaccine to rural Malawi

By: Samuel Adediran, Assistant Director of Global Access

Malawi is one of the countries that is most affected by erratic climatic conditions and animal disease outbreaks, which have a critical negative impact on rural families. Village chicken production is very important to households and livelihoods in rural Malawi. It constitutes a major productive asset, an important form of saving resources and a precious source of protein for rural households’ diet.

Newcastle Disease (ND) is the major constraint to traditional village chicken production in Malawi like in most African and Asian countries. Up to 90% of village flocks are lost annually in affected flocks. Traditional poultry keepers lose millions of Malawian Kwacha (the national currency) annually through preventable animal diseases. Indeed over time, villagers have accepted their annual loss of chickens as inevitable acts of fate. This is where GALVmed and partners come in; to try and change this notion by saving their poultry through vaccinations thus improving the livelihoods of these traditional poultry keepers.

Newcastle disease vaccines have been available to commercial chicken producers but these are packed in large dose sizes to cater for between 500-1,000 chickens. This arrangement is not suitable for backyard poultry keepers probably with five to ten chickens. In addition, lack of awareness, lack of access to suitable agrovet shops, limited and poor access to roads and lack of electricity in rural areas to maintain a cold chain have contributed to inaccessibility of effective ND vaccines. The development of the small packaged, easy to use, thermo-tolerant strain I-2 ND vaccine has brought new hope to traditional village chicken producers in Malawi. Such vaccines can be transported to remote locations in ventilated basket and thermos coolers. The vaccine is also packed in smaller doses that can be used for two to ten households within a five to eight hour window compared with two to three hours for the conventional ND vaccine.

GALVmed is supporting a local NGO, Inter Aide, to increase the use of this ND vaccine in the Lilongwe, Zomba and Phalombe districts of the central region of Malawi. The partnership will promote the availability of this effective solution against Newcastle disease and will train 100 additional vaccinators, which will generate employment for youths in rural areas. Nearly one million doses of ND vaccine will be administered to about 330,000 chickens every three months. The greatest beneficiaries are rural women, who can get disposable income from the traditional chickens, to benefit themselves and their children. It is anticipated that following vaccination and chick protection against predators, more chickens will survive over a period of six months and chicken and egg production will increase creating improved nutrition and income to households in the districts.

Inter Aide is a French organisation devoted to the implementation of programmes that promote resource access for the most vulnerable communities in developing countries. By promoting activities in different fields such as agriculture, water, sanitation, community health and education, Inter Aide’s main objective is to reinforce the capacities of vulnerable populations to improve living conditions in their communities. The general objective of our project with Inter Aide is to reduce disease from the Newcastle virus in the village poultry sector by setting up sustainable vaccine delivery systems in the central region of Malawi, provide affordable ND vaccines to traditional poultry producers and to secure the livelihood of 30,000 families through increased poultry production. In the long term, the partnership will enable Inter Aide to expand ND vaccination activities to new areas and open distribution outlets, which will facilitate improved access to extension and animal health services.

Creating a buzz for Tryps

By: Rose Peter, Programme Manager: Animal African Trypanosomosis

In recent weeks I have attended a couple of conferences where tryps have been on the agenda.  One was in Liverpool, England (World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP)) and  very much focused on research both of new drugs for old parasites and field studies. Attendees were from 65 countries. We at GALVmed presented two posters, one on the development of new therapeutic trypanocides and one on the quality control of trypanocides  that has been facilitated by GALVmed at two laboratories in Africa (LACOMEV in Senegal and the TFDA in Tanzania). Both posters were well accepted and there were some lively discussions specifically in regards to the development of a therapeutic trypanocide with some interested commercial parties.

This week, I find myself in Ndjamema, Chad for the 33rd General Conference of the International Scientific Council for Trypanosomosis Research and Control (ISTRC) and the 14th Pan African Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Campaign (PATTEC) Coordinators Meeting. Some members of our Animal African Trypanosomosis (Tryps) steering committee as well as a number of our collaborators are here. A true Tryps and tsetse fest – it is good to find out what is happening currently in those countries that are so severely affected by this scourge.

Later in the week there will be a number of presentations on some of the work that GALVmed is currently involved in. Already there is interest with discussions with a number of government ministers in regards to the need for new effective drugs, not only for cattle but camels.

For more information on our Tryps project read “Seeking the Next Generation of Livestock Trypanocides”.