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A field study to explore the practical viability of non-invasive, simultaneous administration of commercial Fowl Pox and Newcastle Disease vaccines could potentially help to control both diseases for smallholder farmers. The study is currently being implemented in Hanang district in Tanzania, by GALVmed and its local partner Open University of Tanzania.

The objective of the study is to demonstrate that the concurrent administration of commercial Fowl Pox (FP) and Newcastle Disease (ND) vaccines when given by non-invasive routes is safe and elicits immunity, indicated by local (for FP) or serological (for ND) immune reactions, in rural, free-range scavenging, indigenous chicken in extensive smallholder settings.

The results obtained under field conditions will be compared with those obtained from a laboratory study that GALVmed was involved in, in 2017. The field work will evaluate if the benefits seen under laboratory conditions also accrue under field use conditions. If the field studies are successful, the aim is to make the technology available for commercial use in future.

Most resource poor people, living in marginalised hard to reach areas, possess village chickens. Chicken farming in these areas is characterised by low productivity coupled with high morbidity and mortalities. Preventable diseases such as Fowl Pox and Newcastle Disease are considered to be the primary disease constraints for smallholder poultry production, causing mortality, poor growth rate and drop in egg production.

In general, commercial Fowl Pox and Newcastle Disease vaccines are available in local markets. But a regulatory barrier exists with the administration of Fowl Pox vaccine in that, for most African countries, community animal health workers or paraprofessionals (the primary means by which smallholders access vaccines) are not permitted to administer the Fowl Pox vaccine is classed as an injectable that must be administered by a veterinarian or under the responsibility and direction of a veterinarian. The ND vaccine can however be administered by eye drop by trained paraprofessionals.

A practical solution to this problem could be for the paraprofessionals to apply the FP vaccine by feather-follicle route. This would permit the paraprofessional to legally administer the Fowl Pox vaccine in the course of their Newcastle vaccination activities. This is beneficial in terms of reducing costs and reducing the number of separate interventions.

The ongoing study is being conducted in 245 households located in seven villages.

By Kristin Stuke