NARO makes breakthrough in the development of anti-tick vaccine

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NARO makes breakthrough in the development of anti-tick vaccine
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The Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) has announced it has made good strides in the development of anti-tick vaccines.

It should be remembered that NARO in collaboration with a group at the Health and Biotechnology (SaBio), Institute for Game and Wildlife Research (IREC, CSIC-UCLM-JCCM), Spain, headed by Prof. Jose de la Fuente embarked on this journey years ago.

According to NARO, during the last 10 years, this collaboration has resulted in the development of vaccines specifically targeting ticks that infest cattle in Uganda (brown ear tick, African blue tick and tropical bont tick.

The vaccines were derived from a protein called Subolesin which was extracted from native tick species. The early research efforts were undertaken by a NARO staff, Kasaija Paul as part of his PhD work under the supervision of Prof. Jose de la Fuente and Dr. Marinela Contreras at the University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM), Spain.

On Wednesday, NARO revealed that so far, this collaborative effort has produced two types of vaccines notably the injectable and oral vaccine anti-tick vaccines.

“The injectable anti-tick vaccine is administered in the muscle of cattle around the neck region while oral vaccine is given to cattle through the mouth or mixed in a suitable cattle meal,” NARO stated.

NARO adds that the injectable anti-tick vaccine has been evaluated on five farms across the country representing five ecological zones of Uganda.

The farms include Mbarara ZARDI farm in Mbarara City; Kiburara Prison farm in Ibanda District; Isimba prison farm in Masindi District; Maruzi livestock research station in Apac District; and Nabuin ZARDI farm in Nabilatuk District.

“During the 12 months of the field evaluation trial at Mbarara, Kiburara, and Isimba farms. Trial cattle were sprayed twice at Mbarara and completely not sprayed at Kiburara and Isimba farms. In addition, during the ten months of the field evaluation trial, trial cattle were only sprayed once at Maruzi and completely not sprayed at Nabuin,” NARO noted.

“Trial cattle were sprayed twice. On all the farms, there were no deaths due to tick and tick-borne diseases during the trial period. NARO has already obtained a utility model patent for the injectable and oral anti-tick vaccines (UG/U/2023/6) and efforts are underway to acquire clearance from the national regulatory bodies to register and recommend use of the vaccines by farmers.”

NARO expects to massively produce and rollout the vaccine to livestock farmers in and outside the country upon registration and with support of the Government of Uganda.

NARO says that the collaboration between Ugandan and Spanish researchers with support from national authorities highlights that working together is the best approach to face socioeconomic challenges and translate scientific results into new interventions for building a more sustainable and equitable world.

Annually, the total global costs linked to ticks and tick vectored pathogens in cattle range between US$ 13.9 billion and US$ 18.7 billion.

In Uganda studies have estimated that losses of over USD 1.1 billion occur annually due to ticks and tick-borne diseases including East Coast fever, babesiosis (redwater), anaplasmosis and cowdriosis.

At farm level, 80% of the total annual expenses incurred in management all cattle diseases are associated with controlling tick-borne diseases.

For more than a century, the control of ticks and tick-bone diseases depended mainly on the use of chemical acaricides starting with arsenicals.

However, use of chemical acaricides has been associated with the environmental contamination; and destruction of non-target organisms notably bees and wild birds.

Promoting strategic innovations which are environmentally sound such as the Anti-tick vaccines to control multi-species tick infestations are highly justified, as the Vaccines are the most sustainable, effective and environmentally sound alternative for tick control.

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