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Breakthrough as NARO develops anti-tick vaccine

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Scientists at the National Agriculture Research Organization-NARO have made a breakthrough in developing an anti-tick vaccine which is expected to give a long-lasting solution to the tick problem affecting farmers.

According to NARO’s Director-General Dr Ambrose Agona, the new vaccine has been developed by a team of Ugandan scientists led by Paul Kashaija, a PhD student, with assistance from Spaniard experts headed by Prof. Jose Dela Founte.

Dr Agona says the developed vaccines will tackle three tick species including brown ear tick, bont tick and blue tick, all common in East and Central Africa, which spread diseases like; East Coast Fever, anaplasmosis and Babesiosis sometimes known as Redwater.

A 2016 study conducted by the United States National Institute of Health ranked Uganda among the countries hit hardest by ticks. The ticks are the leading disease vectors in Africa, contributing 30 percent calf deaths and accounting for nearly 90 percent of disease control costs for the continent.

Ticks have been threatening the projected livestock growth and national Gross Domestic Product contribution which currently stands at about five percent alongside affecting food and nutritional security and the livelihoods of farm families.

The State Minister for Animal Industry Joy Kabatsi says the development needs to be celebrated as it opens a new chapter in livestock farming in Uganda where the ever-present risk of remnant animal deaths to tick parasites was making livestock rearing a risky venture for farmers.

Kabatsi adds that the development will also save the country a huge sum of money which has been spent by the country to procure anti-tick vaccines.

She says that the government has put aside 100 billion shillings specifically to support the scientists.

Moses Ninsiima, the chairperson of Sembabule-Gomba Cattle Keepers’ Association says that the ticks which are resistant to several types of acaricide left them in poverty as they kept on buying whatever acaricide recommended in vain.

Ninsiima adds that farmers resorted to radical methods like using bat fumigants ad pesticides to kill ticks.

Dr Agona says that clinical trials have shown that the developed vaccine is already 50 percent effective and they expect it to increase the 70 percent mark after it is fully developed.

Most of the available vaccines are 30 percent effective. Scientists at NARO boast that the new vaccine will be the best in Africa and second to Gavac vaccine which was developed in Cuba.

The Director-General says that experts are also focusing their research on the administering options. He says that they have sought of developing an oral vaccine which will be administered to the animal through the mouth than the usual injections.

Although the vaccine has been proved to be effective, scientists stress that there are some other trials they what to undertake including farm trials among others before the vaccine is finally rolled out. The vaccine is expected to be available for use before the end of this year.

Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that the country has lost over shilling 3.8 trillion in the last few years.

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