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Australia Supports Disease Control In Africa

29 December 2011

AFRICA - Owning large livestock is like money in the bank for African farmers, but major diseases significantly threaten their future.

Among these are [peste des petits ruminants], a viral disease affecting sheep and goats, and [contagious bovine pleuropneumonia], adversely impacting on cattle, which are spreading rapidly in the developing world.

With three years of funding from AusAID and with science support from Australia’s CSIRO, research scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, are working on improved diagnostics and more effective vaccines for their control.

Jeffrey Mariner heads the development of a thermo-stable vaccine for PPR (known as small ruminant plague). The disease causes diarrhoea in sheep and goats and up to 50 per cent mortality in affected flocks.

He said a vaccine was in production which offered lifelong immunity but required refrigeration, giving it limited use in remote Africa. ‘Developing a vaccine effective at room temperature would significantly reduce the cost of vaccination and make it more accessible to pastoral areas of Africa, where many sheep and goats were run.

A team of researchers is also investigating more effective control methods for contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) which is estimated to cost 44 million Euros a year in the 12 African countries which represent the vast majority of outbreaks.

The flu-like disease was eradicated from most Western countries, including Australia, in the early 1970s, but it is still a large killer of cattle across central Africa and south into Tanzania and Zambia.

A live vaccine is available for CBPP but delivers only short time immunity with annual revaccinations required. It also needs refrigeration during transport and storage.

Project leaders Jan Naessens and Joerg Jores said other continents had eradicated [CBPP] through test and slaughter programs, but Africa could not afford to take this approach due to food security issues.

ILRI’s research on PPR is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and its partners include Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub (BecA), an initiative hosted and managed by ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya.

ILRI’s research on CBPP is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and its partners include the BecA Hub and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency.

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