July 6th: Today is World Zoonoses Day – a date that has particular relevance in light of the global Brucellosis Vaccine Prize, a US $30 million prize competition inviting vaccine developers to submit proposals for – and ultimately develop – a suitable vaccine for use against Brucella melitensis in small ruminants across the developing world.
Brucellosis is the most common zoonotic disease globally; approximately 500,000 new human cases are reported annually, and the effects can be devastating. It is a major challenge for human and animal health in endemic countries – and one which requires a One Health solution.
To further understand the challenges involved in controlling brucellosis, we turn to renowned zoonotic brucellosis specialist Dr Jacques Godfroid, who outlines issues with the current programs and the need for a new vaccine:
Can you give us an insight into why brucellosis is such a widespread issue in the developing world?
I feel there are two main issues: firstly, a lack of awareness of the impact of brucellosis on livestock productivity among farmers. And secondly, brucellosis control and eradications schemes for livestock have never been prioritized by the local governments, so there has been a lack of funding for such programs in the developing world.
Why do you think it is an area that has not been prioritized for funding?
Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease – so in order to make it a priority for some authorities to spend money on brucellosis control programs, it is important to make the connection between the control of the disease in animals and the impact that has on the wellbeing and health of people.
What are the restrictions in terms of current control programmes?
For sheep and goats, the main problem is that in a developing country you will have access to the whole livestock population only once a year, and so you have to vaccinate every single animal at that point, regardless of its age and pregnancy status – which means the animal could well be pregnant when vaccinated. Drawbacks associated with the current vaccine mean that it may induce abortion at a rate of up to 100% if given to pregnant animals, so there is definitely a market need for a vaccine that is safer than those currently available.
So you feel a new vaccine would be welcomed by farmers in the developing world?
If the relevant authority or veterinarian is able to tell farmers in developing countries: “by using this product, you will enhance the health and the production of your animals, and it’s safe for your animals and for you”, that would make a major impact – not only in the control of the disease but also for the welfare of the people living in the community. That would be a major breakthrough.
The Brucellosis Vaccine Prize competition aims to encourage animal health innovators to develop and register a vaccine that is efficacious, safe and viable for use against Brucella melitensis in small ruminants across endemic areas.
Three Milestone 1 prizes of US $100,000 have recently been awarded to animal health, biotech and academic organizations across the world; seven such prizes remain available. Find out more and apply at www.brucellosisvaccine.org