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GALVmed recently held a workshop Nairobi (19-20 January 2017) to discuss ongoing research to improve the East Coast Fever (ECF) vaccine. The vaccine, commonly known as Infection and Treatment Method (ITM)  was developed in mid-70s and since then new tools have been developed   to characterise the vaccine strains/stocks and provide new knowledge to make it more efficacious , widely available and to cater to the needs of smallholder farmers in different geographical areas.

While the efficacy of the vaccine is in no doubt, the current ECF-ITM vaccine has a number of drawbacks.  The main drawbacks are related to strain/stock specific immunity, dose packages, administration of the vaccine and cost of vaccine delivery. The strain/stock specific immunity limits its use in some of the endemic countries, particularly in those where the vaccine has not been introduced before. The current ECF-ITM vaccine comes in a 40 dose straw, which makes it difficult to service farmers who have fewer livestock numbers, for example in the dairy sector where farmers normally keep between 1-5 cows. In addition to the inoculation of a cryopreserved (live) vaccine, the cattle have to be administered with a long acting formulation of oxytetracycline antibiotic, which raises the cost of the vaccination.

Researchers have been working to find new technologies that can resolve these challenges and lead to the formulation of an effective live vaccine against the killer disease. The intention of this workshop was therefore to bring together a group of researchers working on the characterisation of the different field strains to review ongoing work and identify new or additional tools that could be used to generate new knowledge in a shorter time frame, leading to formulation of a more effective vaccine against East Coast Fever.  In addition, knowledge emanating from the characterization will equip the decision makers in the new areas with the necessary technical information that will enable them to make decisions on the introduction of the Muguga Cocktail in their countries.

The workshop was attended by molecular biologists and experts in East Coast Fever/Theileria parva (which is the parasite that causes ECF) from GALVmed, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), University of Zambia (UNZA), Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

A number of research papers were presented and debated as the researchers sought to consolidate new knowledge and harmonise their research activities.

“At the moment, we have a number of researchers working on various tools and technologies to characterise the different strains of the ECF vaccine and we would like to see more harmonisation of activities and constant communication across the countries so that we can ensure the appropriate alignment of vaccine and field strains in the manufacturing of the ECF-ITM vaccine,” said Prof. Tony Musoke, GALVmed’s Consultant on East Coast fever vaccine and the organiser of the meeting.

Written by: Beatrice Ouma, GALVmed’s Communications Manager

Further reading

Abstracts Characterisation of Theileria parva strains

Recommendations from Workshop on Molecular Characterisation of Theileria Isolates

Chromosome map of ECF markers

Theileria Parva Satellite Markers and Antigen Primers