The vaccine project commenced late last year by scientists led by the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI),
A vaccine against the tick-borne disease developed by Ugandan scientists is due
to be commercially usable by the end of this year.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, MAAIF,
Frank Kagyigyi Tumwebaze says the program is going on as scheduled and the
vaccine is going through the required clinical trials.
He was launching a committee on the effectiveness of agrochemicals
and animal health products in Uganda. The committee is aimed at finding out why
agro-inputs like anti-tick chemicals, crop pesticides and fertilizers are not
giving the outcomes expected.
The vaccine project commenced late last year by scientists led by
the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI).
The idea was introduced following years of trying to eradicate
especially the East Coast Fever, the most lethal of the tick-borne diseases,
from the country.
In February 2021, then State Minister for Finance David Bahati
requested a supplementary of 2.27 Billion Shillings to cater for the Anti-tick
Vaccine development Initiative by State House.
MPs questioned why the project was being handled by the President’s
office and what competence the presidency had in overseeing such a
science-based innovation. The money was later approved.
He said that the new initiative will not interfere with the
vaccine program of State House.
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The lead researcher in the vaccine project, Dr Frederick Kabi from
NaLIRRI, said the problem with the tick especially that which transmits the
East Coast fever in livestock, is that it keeps mutating.
But he is sure that the vaccine would be rolled out by the end of
this year, following the completion of regional location trials. Ticks are the single major cause of deaths and
reduced productivity in livestock in Uganda and 80% of the countries around the
The East Coast fever is a cancer-like,
tick-transmitted disease that kills cattle within three weeks of infection by
building excess amounts of fluid in their lungs. The other tick-borne
diseases include babesiosis, anaplasmosis and hidrocardia, all serious.
Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) previously
helped to develop and massively produce a vaccine for the disease, in
partnership with the now Veterinary Research Centre and part of today’s Kenya
Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization.
The science journal, Science Direct published that from 1997 to
2014, the vaccine prevented the untimely deaths of some 400,000 animals.
This vaccine uses an infection and-treatment method, where the livestock
are given a combination of infectious strains of the parasite, and then the
animals are administered with antibiotics.
By 2014, the mortality rate of the animals infected was reduced by
up to 95%, but its distribution reach is still limited to a few areas in
Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Another initiative for a vaccine in Uganda is by the Institute for
Game and Wildlife Research (IREC), the government and the University of
The trials of the vaccine in cattle, as well as training of
personnel in Ugandan to produce the drug, started in 2019, but this is still at
its early stages.
“In Uganda, the cost of controlling tick-borne diseases in this African country
accounts for about 80% of the total annual budget associated to curb diseases
affecting cattle, so is a barrier to economic growth,” says IREC.
These diseases include, among others, the east coast fever, the direct and
indirect loss resulting from tick-borne diseases that cost Uganda more than US$
1.1 billion annually, according to the Science Direct publication.
most common types of ticks in Uganda are Ixodidae
ticks) and Argasidae
ticks). Each of them contains different types of diseases, with the family
Ixodidae transmitting as many as five diseases.
In Uganda, the most affected areas are those with warm and humid
temperatures, meaning the central and western regions are more vulnerable to
tick attacks, compared to say, Karamoja and most of northern Uganda.
Tumwebaze said with the growing resistance of ticks to acaricides,
the development of an effective vaccine is currently necessary.
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