Home News General Novel vaccine technology to transform protection of poultry and livelihoods of rural poor

(28 August 2012) EDINBURGH and SEATTLE — A key innovation in vaccine formulation and delivery is set to enable much of the world’s poor to protect their village chickens against Newcastle disease (ND), one of the biggest threats to rural poultry and livelihoods globally.

Commissioned by the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) and funded through GALVmed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government, PATH has developed a fast-dissolving ND vaccine tablet (NDV-tablet) to facilitate the immunization of “backyard poultry” in low-resource rural settings. Additional technical collaborators include the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory of the United States Department of Agriculture and the University of Washington.

Many of the world’s 2.5 billion people who live on US$2 a day rely on chickens and other poultry for daily needs and for cash in crisis. These backyard birds (usually free range and scavengers) are especially important for the subsistence of women and children. The main health-limiting factor for village poultry in low-resource settings is ND-which is viral, highly contagious, and capable of destroying entire chicken populations in a short period of time.

“GALVmed is proud to support the development of the NDV-tablet, which may soon make ND vaccine cheaper and easier for poor farmers to transport, store, and use, ” said Baptise Dungu, GALVmed Senior Director for Research and Development. “Such technology advancements complement GALVmed’s pilot efforts to expand vaccine access and training of villagers as poultry vaccinators, helping to protect animal health and human livelihoods against the devastating effects of disease,” he continued.

Conventional ND live vaccine is packaged in bulky glass vials that can be easily damaged. Each vial typically contains 500 or more doses of vaccine and needs to be stored between 2°-8°C. By comparison, the NDV-tablets-which dissolve in 1 ml of water in less than 10 seconds-are packaged in foil blister packs and can be stored for at least 24 hours at room temperature, making the vaccine dramatically more convenient to transport, store, and use in remote rural settings. Each NDV-tablet contains enough vaccine doses to protect 50 birds, better meeting the smaller flock needs of the rural poor.

PATH and partners continue to explore the feasibility of producing NDV-tablets using equipment and materials that developing-country vaccine manufacturers already have or can easily and inexpensively access. Next steps will include transferring the technology.

Background on Newcastle Disease in Developing Countries

  • There are an estimated 1.38 billion chickens1 in Africa. Approximately 70 percent (900 million2) of them are in villages, and many are at risk of ND.
  • It has been estimated that in Southern Africa (e.g., Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, and Zambia) there are over 80 million chickens in Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) sector 4 (classified as a village or backyard production with minimal biosecurity and birds/products consumed locally) and 112 million in FAO sector 3 (classified as a commercial poultry production system with low to minimal biosecurity and birds/products entering live bird markets, e.g., a caged layer farm with birds in open sheds; a farm with poultry spending time outside the shed; a farm producing chickens and waterfowl), that could potentially benefit from vaccination against ND.3
  • Direct annual costs of uncontrolled ND have been calculated at US$ 16 million in Tanzania and US$15.6 million in Mozambique (assuming 30 percent mortality and a sale price of US$2 per bird).4 The average price of an indigenous chicken is probably underestimated at US$3. In Southern Africa sector 4 and 3, if mortality was reduced from 30 to 20 percent in sector 4, and from 12 to 6 percent in sector 3 there would be a saving of US$56 million per year. In ten years it could have a net present value of over US$260 million.
  • In India, it is estimated that effective and efficient control of ND could easily reduce the flock mortality from 30 to 20 percent in the traditional poultry production sector and from 12 to 6 percent in the small-holder commercial poultry production sector, with gains potentially totalling US$182 million per annum.5

Notes for Editors


 1 Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 2009: Data based on 2007 figures.

2 Sonaiya EB, Branckaert RDS, Gueye EF. Research and development options for family poultry. In: Gueye, E.F. Ed. First INFPD/FAO Electronic Conference on Family Poultry. Rome: FAO;1999.

3 Alders R. Newcastle disease overview in Africa. GALVmed Workshop on Newcastle Disease and ND Vaccines, Maputo. October 2009.

4 Market Assessment on ND Vaccine Supply Chains in SADC Countries and the Potential Size of Demand for the Vaccines by Family Rural Poultry Farmers. Report commissioned by GALVmed. Produced by IRI (pty) Ltd. February 2011.

5Sagari R, Ramdas S A. Unpacking the “poor productivity” myth: women resurrecting poultry-based livelihoods in India. SAGP25. Delhi: South Asia Pro-poor Livestock Policy Programme; 2009. (www.sapplpp.org).

About PATH

PATH is an international non-profit organization that transforms global health through innovation. It takes an entrepreneurial approach to developing and delivering high-impact, low-cost solutions, from lifesaving vaccines and devices to collaborative programs with communities. Through their work in more than 70 countries, PATH and their partners empower people to achieve their full potential. For more information on PATH, please visit: www.path.org.

About GALVmed

GALVmed, the Global Alliance of Livestock Veterinary Medicines, aims to protect livestock and improve human lives and livelihoods by making livestock vaccines, diagnostics, and medicines accessible and affordable to the millions in developing countries for whom livestock is a lifeline. It is a UK-based charity with regional offices in Africa and India and is principally funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government.


GALVmed: Charlotte Black, Fleishman-Hillard, (T) +44 (0)20 7395 7124 | (M) +44 (0)78 1466 6627, charlotte.black@fleishmaneurope.com

PATH: Amy Wales, +1-206-302-4689, awales@path.org