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Our partners over at the Belgium-based organisation Health for Animals have been highlighting the importance of immunisation recently under the theme of vaccines that are ‘changing the world’ to coincide with National Immunization Awareness Month – currently running in the US throughout August.

Their recent blog post Five immunizations that are changing the world includes three livestock diseases that feature among GALVmed’s portfolio of development projects – Brucellosis, Peste de Petits Ruminants (PPR) and Porcine Cysticercosis (PC).

Here at GALVmed, we work with our partners, including Health for Animals, to make livestock vaccines, medicines and diagnostics accessible and affordable to smallholder farmers in Africa and South Asia. To celebrate National Immunization Awareness Month and our partnership achievements in vaccine development we’re providing an update on where we are with our Brucellosis, PPR and PC  projects.

Brucellosis – US $30 million vaccine prize competition for new vaccine

Creating a buzz in the veterinary press recently was the announcement of the first three prize winners each awarded US $100,000 following their initial application to the AgResults’ – a global US $30 million competition aimed at incentivising vaccine developers to develop an efficacious, safe and viable vaccine for use against Brucella melitensis in sheep and goats in the developing world.

Brucellosis is a costly disease that affects ruminants – cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, etc. – and causes abortions, infertility, decreased milk production and weight loss, amongst other effects. It is endemic in a number of developing countries, and the toll on smallholder farmers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa is particularly devastating, since cattle and small ruminants, such as goats and sheep, are a crucial source of income.

The annual impact of Brucellosis to smallholders across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia is estimated at USD $500 million per year.

Brucellosis is also the most common type of disease that is transmitted from animals to humans, with approximately 500,000 new human cases reported each year.

The Brucellosis Vaccine Prize is designed, funded and managed by AgResults – a collaborative initiative between the governments of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It invites vaccine developers to submit their proposals for the development (and ultimately registration) of a suitable vaccine that is efficacious, safe and viable for use against Brucella melitensis in small ruminants across the developing world. Implemented by the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), the competition involves three phases and can run for up to 10 years.

Read about the first set of prize winners and more about the Brucellosis Vaccine Prize, which is accepting applicants to Phase 1 until 18 November 2017.

 Peste des Petits Ruminants – a new combined vaccine

Also of great economic significance to smallholder farmers is the viral small ruminants disease Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), which is estimated to cost US $874 million per annum.

GALVmed’s objectives in tackling PPR include assisting in wider registration in Africa of a PPR vaccine, completing vaccine thermotolerance work and developing a multivalent vaccine potentially covering PPR and other diseases of small ruminants such as Sheep and Goat Pox (SGP) and Rift Valley Fever.

In 2016 GALVmed supported MCI Santé Animale, a Morocco-based animal health company, to test the field acceptance of a combined PPR/SGP vaccine. The combined vaccine has been named LYOPOX-PPR®. The test was carried out in three African countries – Mali, Tanzania and Uganda – and also involved deworming of sheep and goats. A similar test is being carried out in Kenya on a commercial basis to gauge its acceptance with the livestock-keeping community. Traditionally, governments provide vaccines during outbreaks to prevent spread of the two diseases. By combining the two vaccines into one, the livestock keeper will have a tool to control the two diseases in one move. By the time a disease outbreak is apparent, it is usually too late for the affected community.

Porcine cysticercosis: First-ever licensed disease against major cause of epilepsy in developing world

A key breakthrough in tackling Porcine Cysticercosis (PC) came last year with the announcement of the first-ever licensed vaccine for the disease developed by Professor Marshall Lightowlers at the University of Melbourne.

PC is a neglected disease caused by the parasitic worm Taenia solium in  pigs. It is most commonly found in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa and is most prevalent in rural areas where pigs are allowed to roam freely.

Humans can be infected when they accidentally ingest infected pork (which leads to an intestinal infection) or infective eggs, which leads to neurocysticercosis, an infection of the nervous system that causes epilepsy and is the main cause of acquired epilepsy in the developing world. The disease is a serious public health and agricultural problem and causes around five million human cases and 50,000 human deaths each year.

Following the announcement, Professor Lightowlers said: “The publication of results from a trial undertaken to eliminate Taenia solium transmission from the Tumbes region of northern Peru represents an important step in the prevention of epilepsy caused by parasitic infections.

“The contribution of the TSOL18 vaccine for pigs was found to be critical to achieving the highest level of disease control.

“Our challenge for the future is to develop an effective strategy for use of the vaccine in the many poor communities around the world where this parasitic disease is prevalent.”

The TSOL18 vaccine technology, known as Cysvax®, is on sale in India through is the first step towards expansion of the vaccine licensing in other countries as licensing in the country of manufacture is typically a prerequisite to other country licences.

GALVmed is also working with partners in Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Nepal  and India in pilot projects in PC vaccination and deworming to raise awareness of the disease and the vaccine.

Commenting on GALVmed’s work on the field of immunisation, Health For Animals Executive Director Carel du Marchie Sarvaas said: ““It has been incredibly encouraging to witness GALVmed’s progress in recent years. Diseases like Brucellosis are often forgotten in regions where it has been controlled, while it remains endemic and devastating across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

“GALVmed is filling an important void in encouraging the development of new tools that we can use to fight these diseases that will save not only the lives of animals, but humans as well.

“Successful medicines will prevent zoonotic disease transmission and provide a path out of poverty for millions across the world.”

We will continue to update you on these and other projects.  Check our blog regularly or sign up to our bimonthly newsletter at the bottom of the home page.

By Douglas Coulter