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Hope for farmers as Uganda develops anti-tick vaccine

Agriculture minister Frank Tumwebaze (2nd left) and State minister for Agriculture Fred Bwino Kyakulaga (2nd right) interact with scientists at NaLIRRI, Nakyesasa, in Wakiso District on September 16, 2022. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • The vaccine is a culmination of a six-year development process following farmers’ outcry about   drug-resistant ticks. 

Animal farmers can now smile after scientists at the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) said they will be releasing an anti-tick vaccine in a year’s time.
Dr Swidik Mugerwa, the director of National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) at Nakyesasa in Wakiso District, said the vaccine development process, which started in 2016 and followed the recommended three phases, is bearing fruit.
He made the remarks during a tour of NaLiRRI by ministers of Agriculture last Friday.

Farmers currently use acaricides, repellents, and antibiotics to reduce exposure to ticks.
However, these options have been unsuccessful, with many farmers complaining of an increase in tick-borne diseases such as East Coast fever and heart water that are affecting cattle production with estimated losses of more than Shs4 trillion annually. 

 It is for this reason that experts embarked on researching about development of tick vaccine.
   The lead investigator of anti-tick vaccine development, Dr Fredrick Kabi, explained that vaccines constitute an effective and sustainable alternative to controlling ticks.
 Dr Kabi said they used a regional host approach for vaccine design and implementation and the results have been effective.
He noted that the Subolesin (SUB) vaccine has shown 88 percent efficacy in the control of multiple tick species.
Dr Kabi explained that the targeted tick species include Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, R. decoloratus and Amblyomma variegatum, which are affecting most cattle breeds. 
He added that they have tested the vaccine at the institute and now they have acquired permission from Uganda National Council of Science and Technology to begin field tests with selected farmers across the country.

 The team has developed about 5,000 dozes of the vaccine, which will be released to farmers once the field testing is completed.
 Dr Kabi said already infrastructure for mass production of the vaccine is in place at the institute awaiting official launch.
 Minister of Agriculture Frank Tumwebaze, who toured the Institute, applauded the scientists for work well done.
 “I remember NaLIRRI was relocated to Nakyesasa from its original home in Tororo but within the shortest period, the scientists have done a great job. My only challenge is for Naro scientists to embark on picking cream university science students for mentorship to continue the already set legacy,” he noted.

 The minister also urged the scientists to ensure there is fully fledged animal feed production for farmers to purchase as a business activity.
He also urged the scientists to construct a retreat centre where all scientific related meetings can take place instead of going to organise meetings in hotels. This, he said, is in line with protecting Naro land, which some investors want to grab.
The director general of Naro, Dr Ambrose Agona, noted that the scientists are considering packaging the vaccine both in oral and injectable forms.