Research undertaken by scientists at the University of Glasgow and The Pirbright Institute has shown that a targeted vaccination programme against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) could contribute to alleviating poverty in eastern Africa.
In their study, published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution, the team surveyed farming households in Tanzania and examined how the disease passed to livestock, enabling them to understand the economic burden FMD places on local people, and establish the best methods for controlling its spread.
There are several types of FMD virus (called serotypes) that circulate in Africa, but until now the way in which they spread across eastern Africa was poorly understood. Using the high-containment facilities provided by The Pirbright Institute, experts were able to test samples from Tanzanian livestock and wild buffalo to determine which serotypes they had been infected by over the years.
Professor Satya Parida, Head of the Vaccine Differentiation group at Pirbright said: “We found that FMDV serotypes pass through livestock in slow waves, but that it was rare for livestock to become infected by viruses circulating in wild buffalo. Through understanding the pattern of FMD waves, we suggest that by quickly identifying the virus serotype causing an outbreak, serotype specific vaccines could be deployed to prevent its continued spread in sub-Saharan Africa, thereby providing a cost-effective strategy for reducing the economic and health impacts on livestock owners in these regions”.
Dr Tiziana Lembo, lead author from the University of Glasgow added: “In East Africa, foot-and-mouth disease control policies targeting the most affected communities have been constrained by a limited understanding of the role of wildlife in transmission to livestock, particularly in areas where both populations live in close proximity. Our research demonstrates that disease risks are driven by livestock- rather than wildlife-related factors. This is different to the situation in southern Africa, where there is spill over from buffalo to livestock, and control methods therefore focus on their separation.”
Livestock production losses due to FMD are estimated to be around $2.3 billion each year in Africa, affecting national economies, food security and the livelihoods of livestock keepers – 85% of which live in extreme poverty. A vaccination strategy based on the findings of this study could help to alleviate poverty in communities that are dependent on their livestock for income, in addition to increasing the production of milk, which is heavily relied upon as a source of protein in these regions.
Notes to editors
Please link to the paper using the below URL:
The study, ‘Waves of endemic foot-and-mouth disease in eastern Africa suggest feasibility of proactive vaccination approaches’ is published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution. The primary research underpinning this study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Department for International Development and the Scottish Government through the Combating Infectious Diseases of Livestock for International Development initiative. This research was also supported by a BBSRC Doctoral Training grant to fund Miriam Casey-Bryars’ PhD programme at the University of Glasgow.
About The Pirbright Institute
The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience.
With an annual income of nearly £32.1 million from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £14.3 million strategic investment from BBSRC during 2017-2018, the Institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.
For more information about The Pirbright Institute see: www.pirbright.ac.uk
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
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