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Factsheet: Tackling East Coast Fever in livestock

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East Coast Fever cattle vaccination

Many small­holder farm­ers in vari­ous parts of the coun­try which re­ceive much rain­fall such as Mur­anga, Laikipia, Kaka­mega, Narok, Ki­ambu and Kisii among other places every year ex­per­i­ence tre­mend­ous losses to East Coast Fever (ECF), a dis­ease which causes fever, en­larged lymph nodes, an­or­exia, la­boured breath­ing, corneal opa­city, nasal dis­charge, diarrhoea and an­aemia in an­im­als.

Ac­cord­ing to the Global Al­li­ance for Live­stock Veter­in­ary Medi­cines (GALVmed), ECF which is caused by pro­to­zoa Thei­leria parva has a fatal­ity rate of 100 per cent in cattle from on–en­demic areas if un­treated. Mor­bid­ity rate is 100% among in­di­gen­ous cattle, but the mor­tal­ity rate is usu­ally low.

There are about 50 mil­lion cattle at risk (with 10 mil­lion calves per annum) and the total yearly cost of the dis­ease is es­tim­ated to be US $596 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to GALVmed.

The dis­ease whose in­cub­a­tion period is 12 months is trans­mit­ted by ticks which are act­ing as bio­lo­gical vec­tors. It is trans­mit­ted to an­im­als through saliva of the feed­ing tick. Trans­mis­sion can also occur via re­used needles or an­im­als that have sur­vived the in­fec­tion.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: Opin­ion: Vac­cin­at­ing live­stock against East Coast fever in­creases in­comes of small­holder farm­ers

ECF causes high loss of milk and meat pro­duc­tion es­pe­cially dur­ing wet sea­son when there is an all-time in­crease in tick pop­u­la­tion.

“Due to the lethal nature of the dis­ease, sci­ent­ists have been work­ing round the clock to find vac­cine that will help farm­ers deal with this men­ace,” wrote Dr Moses Olum, veter­in­ary sur­geon, Fac­ulty of Veter­in­ary Medi­cine Uni­versity of Nairobi.

Ex­perts from Kenya Ag­ri­cul­tural and Live­stock Re­search Or­gan­isa­tion (KALRO) and the In­ter­na­tional Live­stock Re­search In­sti­tute (ILRI) launched a na­tion­wide ECF vac­cine in 2012 in Kitale which ended up in field tri­als in vari­ous parts of the coun­try where 1.3 mil­lion heads of cattle were vac­cin­ated.

The dis­ease which is spread in sub-Saha­ran Africa had its vac­cine found by KALRO and ILRI ex­perts in 2015 and used in Kenya and Tan­zania.

The ECF vac­cine is now com­mer­cially avail­able and widely used by most farm­ers in East Africa though the vac­cine was first re­jec­ted in Uganda.

ILRI is now work­ing closely with GALVmed to fast-track ad­op­tion of proven tech­no­lo­gies and vac­cines where live­stock vac­cin­at­ors will be trained ahead of up­com­ing vac­cin­a­tion ex­er­cise of one mil­lion heads of cattle.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, the vac­cine em­ploys the ‘in­fec­tion and treat­ment method’ that in­volves in­fect­ing cattle with a ‘cock­tail’ of live para­sites and sim­ul­tan­eously treat­ing them with a long-last­ing an­ti­bi­otic. This ‘live vac­cine’ method gen­er­ates life-long im­munity to East Coast fever.

The vac­cine is packed in straws of 10 or 40 doses and has to be trans­por­ted in li­quid ni­tro­gen just like semen. It is re­con­sti­t­uted with a dilu­ent and should be used within two hours of pre­par­a­tion.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE:Sci­ent­ists step up war on East Coast Fever with su­per­ior vac­cine

Farm­ers and veter­in­ary of­ficers alike are ad­vised to ad­here to an­ti­bi­otic with­drawal peri­ods for milk­ing an­im­als and the only an­im­als vac­cin­ated against ECF are cattle since they are the only ones af­fected.

The vac­cine of­fers pro­tec­tion to up to 98 per cent of an­im­als vac­cin­ated and it provides im­munity for a life­time.

It is is pro­duced for com­mer­cial use by KALRO and ILRI and ac­cord­ing to Dir­ector of Veter­in­ary Ser­vices, an­imal ser­vice pro­viders who want to offer ECF vac­cin­a­tions must un­dergo a one week prac­tical train­ing at the Veter­in­ary Re­search In­sti­tute in Muguga, from which they re­ceive a cer­ti­fic­ate.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE:Uganda live­stock re­search­ers using ge­netic ma­ter­i­als from Kenya to de­velop ant tick vac­cine

Uni­versity of Nairobi Clin­ical Stud­ies De­part­ment in Ka­bete and other private en­tit­ies such as Sidai Africa and Vet Aid provide the ser­vice.

Since the vac­cine is ad­min­istered con­cur­rently with an an­ti­bi­otic, the cost is higher than other vac­cines vary­ing between Sh700 and Sh1,000 de­pend­ing on the weight of the an­imal. Any an­imal can be vac­cin­ated while calves can only be vac­cin­ated from three months old and small scale farm­ers are ad­vised to be in groups to man­age the cost.

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