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Home Research & Innovations NARO Developing Locally-tailored Foot and mouth Disease Vaccine

NARO Developing Locally-tailored Foot and mouth Disease Vaccine

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Agnes Nantambi

The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) has started working on a new locally-tailored foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine to increase efficiency to enhance dairy export.

This, according to Dr Moses Dhikusooka, the team leader vaccine research at the National Livestock Resource Research Institute (NaLIRRI), is to respond to farmers’ complaints on the available FMD vaccines.

“We have been involved in evaluating the FMD vaccine and we have a clear picture of how the current vaccine for the last five years has been performing.

As an institution, we began on the issue of improving and developing a vaccine that works, because we were receiving so many complaints from farmers about the failure of the vaccines in the field,” he said.

Dhikusooka was speaking during the Equal Opportunities Assessment on the Integration of Gender and Equity in Agricultural Research at Nakyesasa in Namulonge.

He said as technical people, they were observing what was happening, and took it upon themselves to try and find out why vaccines were failing.

“We realised that sometimes the vaccines fail when the method of carrying them to the field is not the best. We have engaged in training and government has provided cold storage centres to ensure that they are delivered safely,” the team leader said.

Dhikusooka, however, said most of the vaccines, which are imported, are not sufficient to cover the entire population of Ugandan animals.

The NARO team taking Sofia Nalule (right) through some of their innovations. (Photo by Agnes Nantambi)
The NARO team taking Sofia Nalule (right) through some of their innovations. (Photos by Agnes Nantambi)

Majority of these, he said, are imported from Kenya, South African, Botswana and other countries, depending on the case.

“We realised that the vaccine was not working, because what we were using was slightly differing in the genetic makeup from the viruses we encountered,” he said.

FMD viruses change very first and so the change of the viruses was faster than the change at which the industry was producing and supplying the vaccines.

With this, we went ahead and began to pick viruses from different outbreaks, trying to find out which strains are saturating in the country for the different five years,” he said.

Dhikusooka explained that Uganda has got four different strains which occur at different times and whenever the vaccines are brought in, the protection is low and requires improvement. These include 0, A, SAT-1 and SAT-2.

“We have been able to come up with the different isolates in store and now ready to produce a vaccine that suits our Ugandan viruses,’’ he added.

The vaccines that we are using is targeted towards controlling all the four saturating viruses. Our work is to have the different viruses, be able to harvest them and use them to produce a vaccine that is able to protect our animals.

Dhikusooka stressed that vaccines must be made from local strains to be able to protect your country.

OVER 500b lost

The livestock sector, he said, is struggling due to wrong vaccines, but with proper vaccines, Uganda shall embrace trade free disease zones that will enhance export.

According to Dhikusooka, Uganda loses over sh500b at household level due to FMD.

“Our meat has been rejected on grounds that it comes from FMD infected areas.

The chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Hajat Sophia Nalule, in her submission, implored NARO to step into the current situation where the country is grappling with economic independence through ensuring massive production of vaccines for local and international market.

Hajjat Sofia Nalule looks at some of the innovations made at NaLIRRI in Nakyesasa. (Photo by Agnes Nantambi)
Hajjat Sofia Nalule looks at some of the innovations made at NaLIRRI in Nakyesasa.

“I am impressed with what NARO does because I have even seen people disabled like me heading a department, in this case, we have no objection in giving them a gender equity certificate.

She appealed to the finance ministry not to appropriate funds to any institution which has undermined receiving the gender equity and inclusion certificate.

The director general of NARO, Dr Yonah Baguma, said there were gender and equity challenges that NARO has continued to address as it prioritises agricultural research. “Women and youth have identified niches in the various commodity value chains for incomes and employment, this has increased income among the women and youth through production, processing and marketing of industrial products from nutrient rich crops,” he said.

Baguma said 325 women and youth led local seed business have been stimulated across the country.

How to develop the vaccine

Dr Moses Dhikusooka, the team leader vaccine research at the National Livestock Resource Research Institute (NaLIRRI), said the first stage is to identify the saturating strains by going to the field and picking samples at a particular stage of infection.

The second stage is to put them in a lab, characterise them and identify them before growing the different samples and then begin to understand them in the cell culture room where the cells on which viruses feed stay.

He said the organisation has developed the capacity for growing the viruses as an institution and also developed the capacity to help the technicians identify them on sport.

“Currently, we are at the level of transforming them into the vaccines themselves so that we can have vaccines that work,” Dhikusooka said.

He said, they hope by next year, the FMD vaccine will be ready, although they are currently challenged with lack of premises to enhance mass production, saying the available premises are aimed at promoting Anti-tick Vaccines.

“By using our own vaccine, we shall be able to contain the so many quarantines, which are rampant in the most business centres,’’ Dhikusooka said.

He added that after realising difficulty in identifying the viruses on spot by the farmers and vets in the field, they have gone ahead to train people to make kits that will help to identify the virus in the field.

“The first kit we have developed is the African Swine fever kit, which will help to identify the disease in the field. At the moment, we are waiting for completion of the building and install the equipment to begin producing the kits,” he said.

This FMD vaccine, Dhikusooka said, will help Ugandan farmers access international market, adding that currently Ugandan farmers cannot access the international market on meat and milk because the FMD threat.

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