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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