Farmers court portable technology that detects livestock plague

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has developed a portable, user-friendly tool that detects pneumonia in goats and cattle in minutes, a disease that claims 8 out of 10 livestock infected costing Africa's 24 million livestock farmers some $2bn a year in losses.

The tool to be distributed to farmers allows farmers to do quick checks and tests anytime they suspect their livestocks are sick ensuring timely interventions with scientists arguing that timely diagnosis can more than halve deaths.

Dr Anderson Wabungu, a specialised scientist in livestock health and diseases at KARI, developed the testing kit with finance from Kenya National Convention for Science and Technology (KNCST) through USAID. “The technology has advantages of reduced cost because it is portable and simplified in disease testing compared to previously available test,” he said.

According to Wabungu the kit can detect two major contagious diseases; Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) that is Pneumonia in cattle and Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP) Pneumonia in goats. 

The kit tests for positive and negative reactant that would show an infected or healthy animal which must be obtained from a sample of blood. Others from live animals include nasal swabs. Wabungu says the kit is currently available at KSh4,000 in all KARI offices in the eight regions and will be rolled out to major veterinary shops soon.

The contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) is an acute highly contagious disease of goats caused by a mycoplasma and characterised by fever, coughing, severe respiratory distress, and high mortality. 

Abu Oriko, another research scientist at KARI says Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia causes major economic losses in Kenya and East Africa community where it is endemic. “The disease is usually transmitted during close contact by the inhalation of respiratory droplets.

Chronic carriers may exist, but this remains unproven,” he explains. “Some outbreaks have occurred in endemic areas when apparently healthy goats were introduced into flocks. It is readily contagious and fatal to susceptible goats of all ages and both sexes, rarely affects sheep, and does not affect cattle,” Oriko said

The incubation period under natural conditions is commonly six to ten days, but may be prolonged for between three to four weeks. Some experimentally infected goats develop fever as soon as three days after inoculation and respiratory signs as early as five days, but others become ill up to 41 days after exposure. Affected goats may die within one to three days with minimal clinical

“Saliva can drip continuously from the mouth, and the animal may grunt or bleat in pain. Frothy nasal discharge and stringy saliva may be seen terminally. Pregnant goats can abort. Acutely affected goats generally die within seven to ten days due to chroniccough, nasal discharge and debilitation. Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) jeopardises cattle health in Kenya and developing countries, making it one of the most important infectious diseases in cattle. In the acute stage, cattle have noticeable respiratory symptoms, including coughing, nasal discharge, dsypnoea, and polypnoea caused by pneumonia and pleurisy lesions.

Affected animals normally have generalised signs such as depression, dullness, weakness and lethargy, pyrexia and weight loss and decreased production. They will also have respiratory signs including bilateral nasal discharge, dyspnoea, tachypnoea and coughing. Occasionally the only sign seen is sudden death.

The Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia is spread mainly by inhalation of droplets from infected coughing animals, especially if they are in the acute phase of the disease. Although close and repeated contact is generally thought to be necessary for transmission, transmission may occur up to 200 metres under favourable climatic condition.

Timely screening therefore allows for this detection and is required as an integral part of a disease control program. Both Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia and Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia disease incidence are reduced by good hygiene and animal husbandry practices by the farmer and regular testing. 

The diseases which were introduced to the continent through livestock imports in 1853 have managed to beat scientists on the continent due to their transboundary nature. Livestock owners move livestock from one area to another looking for market and any contact between infected and uninfected livestock leads the diseases to spread.

Control methods such as restrictions on animal movement and the use of live vaccines have failed to work effectively in Africa, with studies concluding that the diseases cannot be eradicated in African conditions using these control methods since livestock farmers have to keep moving in search of pasture and trade.