Uganda’s Anti-Tick Vaccine: A Huge Breakthrough For Farmers In The Country

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The National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) is in the advanced stages of producing an anti-tick vaccine that will save farmers from overspending on spraying cattle, and the loss of animals.

This was revealed on Friday, May 26, 2023, during an engagement meeting between BioCafe, convened by Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development (SCIFODE), Uganda Biotechnology & Biosafety Consortium (UBBC) with support from the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) and online journalists under their Umbrella, [the] Independent Online Journalists Association –Uganda (INDOJA-U) at Fairway Hotel, Kampala.

Dr. Kabi Fredrick, the Principal Research Officer (PRO) in NARO (based at National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI), Nakyesasa) said during the meeting that the vaccine, which is already being rolled out for the final trial stage of trials, passed the tests for the initial stages of prequalification.
“Acaricides have been used to kill ticks for the last 100 years, leading to gradual loss of potency, environmental and food contamination and death of non-target life. But our Anti-tick vaccines trigger antibody production into blood sucked by ticks, leading to blockage of enzymes and disabling tick feeding, growth and production,” Dr Kabi said.

He added that researchers in this project are in the middle of final trials at NARO agro-zones and institutional farms, which include; Mbarara ZARDI, Isimba Prison Farm in Masindi district, Kiburara Prison Farm in Ibanda district, Maruzi Research Station in Apac district and Nabuin ZARDI in Nabilatuk district.
“These locations represent the Pastoral Rangelands, Western Highlands, Lake Albert Crescent, Mid-North Savannah Grasslands and Karomaja Drylands Agro-Ecological Zones respectively,” he noted.

According to Kabi, upon the successful conclusion of the trial, the anti-tick vaccine will be available and ready for scaling up for use by livestock farmers, saving the country from an annual economic loss of over UGX 3.8 trillion caused by ticks and tick-borne diseases.
“Currently, Uganda loses over UGX 2.5-3.8 trillion annually due to ticks (Anaemia, high treatment costs, and control measured, production losses, low-grade products) thus loss of market, which keeps Ugandan farmers in poverty,”  Kabi said.

He added that “Livestock farmers are used to spraying their animals every week, but with this vaccine, they will spray twice every 6 months.”

Dr. Fredrick Kabi the Principal Research Officer at NARO making a presentation

Economic Implications Of Anti-Tick Vaccine To Uganda

Dr Kabi explained that upon successful completion of this field trial in the different geographical settings and approval, the product will be licensed for integration into the present tick control program in Uganda.

He noted that the application of this intervention will lead to numerous benefits including;

  1. A reduction in the frequency of acaricide use by at least 90% (from spraying twice a week to twice in 6 months), with a resulting reduction in production labour costs. This will help the farmers to break even at a low cost.
  2. A reduction in chemical importation from 350 tons to less than 170 tons, equivalent to a saving of UShs1.0 trillion over 3 years.
  3. Less tick burden, leading to better quality hides and skins.
  4. Reduction in the incidence of sickness and deaths attributed to ticks and tick-borne diseases by 90%, with reduced household expenditure on livestock production.
  5. Faster livestock growth rate (weight gain) and milk production, leading to increased farm productivity.
  6. Delayed development and eventual elimination of tick acaricide resistance.
  7. Decreased environmental and animal food pollution, thereby leading to better quality or safer meat and milk products.

Kabi however emphasized that these vaccines are developed from ticks found within Uganda and are fully owned by Uganda.

He concluded by hailing the journalist umbrella body INDOJA-U under the able leadership of its president Mr Andrew Irumba, for having come together to unite the online/digital media fraternity.

“I think we have been having the issue of lack of media organization. We wouldn’t work best with people who are not organized. Now that we have you under the Independent Journalist Association of Uganda (INDOJA), we can now sit and agree on how best we can work together,” he said.

In his remarks, Mr. Irumba acknowledged the hard work put in by the scientists, applauded NARO for the engagement and requested them to always engage Online Media because it is now the face of today’s society.
“Local content is very key. The future is digital, the future is online and now is the time to work together. As INDOJA, we shall work together with NARO,” he said, adding that professionalism is also key for successful online media.

Mr Andrew Irumba the INDOJA-U President

The meeting was also attended by representatives from Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC) and National Biosafety Committee, among others.

Dr Andrew Kiggundu, the Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC) chairman, applauded NARO scientists for thinking beyond the box and coming up with the Anti-tick Vaccine. He said that whereas technology has advanced over the years, there is also a need to conserve the environment.

Dr Andrew Kiggundu, the Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC) chairman

It should be noted that in Uganda, the most common ticks responsible for high economic losses are the brown ear ticks (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus), blue ticks (R. decoloratus), bont ticks (Amblyomma variegatum) and red ticks (R. evertsi).

These ticks infest cattle, goats and sheep while transmitting disease organisms. Wild ruminants usually act as their natural hosts, the reason why the new Ant-Tick Vaccine will be very vital in eliminating them.

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