The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), has launched an anti-tick vaccine final trial, which is said to have solutions to farmers’ problems regarding ticks and tick-borne diseases.
Speaking during the launch of the anti-tick vaccine field trials at Mbarara Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Bright Rwamirama, the state minister for animal industry, said the vaccine would address one of the biggest challenges (ticks) in the animal industry.
The livestock sector contributes 17% to the national GDP, employs over 10 million people involved in the value chain, and provides food and nutrition security, which makes it key in the economy.
Rwamirama said Uganda loses a lot of income annually, which will be saved by licensing the new anti-tick vaccine.
He said the move would also reduce contamination of the environment and animal food, which normally happens through acaricide chemical applications.
Yona Baguma, the deputy director general research co-ordination at NARO, said the vaccine was developed in order to create a long-lasting tick and tick-borne diseases solution for farmers.
“The trial vaccine has passed initial test stages such as the laboratory tests, proof of concept, on-station clinical trials administered both orally and intramuscular injection, of pre-qualification and now proceeds to the final geographical trial stage,” Baguma added.
The trials will take place at four other locations — Uganda Prison Farm, Isimba; Uganda Prison Farm, Kiburara; Maruzi Livestock Research Centre and Nabuin Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute in Masindi, Ibanda, Apac and Nabilatuk districts.
Upon successful conclusion of the trial, results will be assessed for quality standardisation, to ensure the vaccine is safe for mass public consumption.
Baguma said the anti-tick vaccine is good for the environment and is an effective intervention for the control of tick infestations and transmission of tick-borne pathogens, where the antigens used are immunologically active tick proteins that stimulate antibodies production once vaccinated into a vertebrate host.
Protection from the ticks is reached when specific antibodies are produced by immunised hosts and when ingested by the attaching ticks, they disable tick feeding, growth, reproduction and general fitness, he added.
Speaking at the event, Frank Tumwebaze, the agriculture minister, who represented the Prime Minister, commended NARO for the excellent achievement of the final trial anti-tick vaccine.
He said the Government and the general public have confidence in the local solution to ticks and tick-borne diseases.
Tumwebaze also urged the NARO team to put more effort in research and developing other similar products that are relevant to the times and are able to respond to the challenges in the agriculture sector.
Ambrose Agona, the director general of NARO, said the control of ticks had mainly relied on acaricides for the past years, which has led to acaricide-resistant tick species and the death of non-target organisms such as bees, dung beetles and tourists’ favourite birds.
Ticks are a very big threat to livestock because they sometimes lead to the death of animals resulting from lethal tick-borne diseases such as east coast fever, babesiosis and anaplasmosis, poor livestock fitness and anaemia, he said.
Agona added that the livestock that has been infested by ticks has low-quality hides and skins resulting from tick bites and injury, poor growth and weight gain due to excessive blood-sucking tick infestations.