Bringing the benefits of the ECF vaccine to Rwandan farmers

Rwandan farmers will soon have a reason to smile as they will be able to protect their cattle from one of the deadliest cattle diseases – East Coast Fever. The disease that kills numerous cattle across the East Africa region is present in most regions of Rwanda and yet unlike their East African counterparts, Rwandan farmers have not been benefiting from a vital vaccine that could protect their cattle and reduce their losses to the disease.

During a workshop held in early December 2016 in Kigali to validate an ECF-ITM Muguga Cocktail field trial in the country, it emerged that successful control of the disease was seen using the Muguga Cocktail, which provides a one shot immunity for the life of the cow. Over 65 participants attended the workshop from all regions across Rwanda and interest in the vaccine, particularly from farmers present, was immense.

In the course of 2016, GALVmed has been working with the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) and the Department of Veterinary Services to conduct a controlled study using the Muguga Cocktail vaccine. “Our tests have proved that the Muguga Cocktail vaccine currently being used across East Africa can provide cross immunity against the circulating Rwandan field strains in this study. This is a positive result, a step in the right direction towards bringing the benefits of this vaccine to farmers in Rwanda,” said Jeremy Salt, GALVmed’s Director for Research & Development.

For GALVmed, it is important that this vaccine is made available in Rwanda to control ECF and the resultant losses and cattle deaths being incurred by smallholder farmers.

Current control measures not very effective

Current control methods of ECF in Rwanda include spraying cattle with acaricides to control ticks and treatment of cattle infected with the parasite. However, these are not usually reliable as the drugs of choice to treat the disease are only effective if treatment is started early and can be very expensive. Besides, ticks have been observed to be developing resistance to acaricides in use and the drugs used in cattle are becoming increasingly ineffective due to the development of resistance and the availability of poor or counterfeit products. Hence, the need to have a safer and effective disease control strategy using the vaccine.

Moving forward

Before large-scale vaccination can begin, there is a need to set up a structure that will enhance vaccine uptake country-wide. This will include training of trainers and vaccinators as well as conducting awareness campaigns in all regions of the country to enable the farmers understand the benefit of the vaccine.

During the workshop, it was acknowledged that there is need for market study trials in all regions of Rwanda and in the next couple of months there will be targeted immunisation of up to 300 cattle and a vibrant monitoring system put in place to obtain feedback and to ensure safe usage of the vaccine.

By Beatrice Ouma, GALVmed’s Communications Manager

Fulani freed from the threat of PPR and SGP in Mali

Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) and Sheep and Goat Pox (SGP) result in major losses in livestock productivity and also death of many small ruminants for farmers in Safèbougou, a Malian village located about 100 km north of Bamako. “Every year, there were cases of sheep pox and PPR,” says Boubacar Dramane Bah, a 65 year old Fulani livestock farmer, standing in the middle of his goat herd. “PPR is a dangerous disease. We know when they are infected, the sick animals cry and, after only two days, they
die,” continues Bah.

PPR and SGP have been recurrent diseases, not just in the region but across Mali where it devastates the local economy which is dependent on livestock. In the Malian Bambara language, the name for PPR is Berebla meaning ‘end of career’. This is due to the high mortality rate during an outbreak, which according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), is between 90-100%. PPR can also cause abortion in female animals. SGP has a slightly lower mortality rate of between 70-90% but also causes huge economic losses resulting from decreased milk production as well as reduced quality of hides and wool.

Vaccines for both PPR and SGP are available separately, but their use has been predominantly limited to government vaccination campaigns once an outbreak occurs, which sometimes may be too late for affected communities. Non-profit company, the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) has been supporting Morocco-based pharmaceutical company, MCI Santé Animale, to trial vaccinations using LYOPOX-PPR (a combined vaccine against both diseases) along with deworming of sheep and goats. With this new combined vaccine, farmers are able to actively manage their livestock’s health by vaccinating against both diseases before an outbreak occurs.

In Safèbougou, houses built of mud bricks dot the land owned by the Fulani – an ethnic pastoralist group whose livestock are passed from father to son. “We live only from the livestock that our parents bequeathed us,” says Bah. Each member of his family (adult men and women) has around 80 goats and sheep. With his family comprising of 10 people, they have around 800 goats and sheep in total.

For these livestock farmers, small ruminants are a critical source of income so the impact of these diseases can be economically devastating. According to Bah, when he sells a goat or a sheep, he can earn XOF 60,000 (about US $100), a sum that is sufficient to cover the monthly expenses of his family.

Until the introduction of this new combined vaccine against SGP and PPR, herders did not vaccinate their animals because of the cost. “For 20 years I have been working with livestock farmers from surrounding villages,” says Aguibou Sylla, the Sirakorola village veterinarian. “For the first time, the farmers have taken the initiative to request this new vaccine.” Sylla is one of the vets who recently took part in the vaccination and deworming project. “We received 10,000 doses of the vaccine and selected 14 surrounding villages to participate in the project, where we vaccinated all small ruminants,” states Sylla.

Bah is pleased with the recent vaccinations in his village. “There are a lot of Fulani herders in the surrounding villages, but since the animals were vaccinated, no one has told me of a single case of PPR or sheep pox,” Bah says. “One year I lost all my animals due to PPR, but the arrival of this new vaccine [LYOPOX-PPR] has saved
my flock so far.”

The vaccinators are also confident that the new vaccine does not result in any common complications in animals, such as abortion in pregnant females. The results of laboratory analysis of blood samples taken from vaccinated animals confirm the livestock farmers’ observations of the efficacy of LYOPOX-PPR. In total, more than 95,000 small ruminants were vaccinated during the project in three regions of Mali: Kayes, Sikasso and Koulikoro.

Dr Moussa Keita, who supervised the vaccination programme in Mali, states that the vaccine is efficient and cost-effective as both diseases are controlled at the same time. The trial found that smallholder herders are willing to pay for this vaccination that was previously provided by the government for free. Further data provided by the trial (which was approved by the regulatory authorities) will also support the vaccine licensing (registration) process in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), which covers 14 countries including Mali. MCI Santé Animale has filed the vaccine registration of LYOPOX-PPR with the UEMOA and when registration is complete the vaccine will be available for all countries in the UEMOA region.

Written by: Soumaila T. Diarra, WRENmedia correspondent

Produced by WRENmedia for GALVmed