Irene Ogali, a PHD student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is working on a new vaccine to end Newcastle disease with 80 to 100 per cent mortality rate in chicken.
According to department of livestock development, Newcastle disease in Kenya causes an estimated Sh450m worth of losses annually every April and between September and December.
The researcher is currently undertaking a pilot study that will inform the development of a vaccine that will match the genetic composition of local birds in Kenya. At the moment, farmers are using a vaccine that was developed over 50 years ago and has over time become obsolete due to the evolving nature of the disease.
“We need a genotyped-matched vaccine that matches strengths of local viruses. The problem is that imported vaccines that poultry farmers still rely on were made in countries that have different ecological conditions and they may not match the strengths of the virus we have here in Kenya,” said Ogali.
Local traditional chicken in a free range system. File
Her study has been conducted on small, medium and large poultry farms in western, eastern Kenya and Nairobi, the capital city and seeks to identify some of the causes of the disease in chicken.
In this, tissue samples were taken from birds in the regions which indicated that the birds had a similar genetic composition which will inform a more effective vaccine.
Ogali is set to develop a vaccine that will prevent vaccinated birds from infecting unvaccinated birds as is the case with available vaccines.
Chickens suffering from Newcastle disease show nervous signs, diarrhoea and die in large numbers. The disease is spread by sick birds usually brought in from the market or by other birds from the neighborhood. Visitors, dogs and wild birds can also spread the disease.