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NARO Moots Anti-Tick Vaccine

Kampala, Uganda: The National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) is in advanced stages of producing an anti-tick vaccine, theCooperator has learned.

Speaking at a policy dialogue organized by NARO and The Uganda We Want (TUWW) think tank held on 2nd August at one of NARO’s livestock research station  in Namulonge, Dr. Yona Baguma, the Research Agency’s Deputy Director for Research told participants that NARO is developing four different acaricides to protect animals against the tick parasite, including two other diseases -  Foot and Mouth Disease and African Swine Fever.

In 2016, a study by the US-National Institute of Health found that the tick parasite is the leading disease vector in Africa, contributing 30% calf deaths and accounting for nearly 90% of disease control costs for the continent.

The same study, conducted in 14 districts of central and western Uganda showed that Uganda ranks amongst the countries hit hardest by ticks and tick-borne diseases, and NARO’s National Agricultural Livestock Research Institute(NALRI) has warned that the ever-present risk of remnant animal deaths to tick parasites is making livestock rearing a risky venture for local farmers and cooperatives engaged in the agricultural sector.

According to NARO, commercial farmers and cooperatives that keep exotic breeds and their crossbreeds face greater risk, compared to those with local breeds which are historically famed for being more resistant to the tick parasite.

The study by the US scientists found that commercial farmers rely mainly on acaricides for disease control, pushing the government to spend a lot of money on importing anti-tick acaricides.

“For foot and mouth disease, Uganda spends about shs.2 trillion annually to import the vaccines. We spend about shs.3 trillion to manage tick and tick-borne diseases alone,” noted Dr. David Nanyenyi, a researcher with NALRI.

Despite the massive spending, Dr. Nanyenyi notes that overtime, the proliferation of fake acaricides on the market, wrong drug dilution by farmers, poor application methods and increased acaricide pressure have accelerated acaricide resistance to up to 90%.

Cases of rampant acaricide resistance have especially been reported in western and central cattle corridors, where exotic breeds of cattle are mainly kept for dairy production.

Now, NARO is promising a breakthrough.  Dr. Diksoka Moses, a veterinary doctor at NALRI says that the research agency has developed a homegrown system of developing vaccines through its Animal Health Research and Development Program and that it would soon produce a remedy to the tick problem.

“As an institute, we have built capacity and we are better positioned to give support to the government. We are aware that ticks cost this country a lot of money on an annual basis, and what we have done as NARO is to come up with anti-tick vaccine molecules which are now being tested,” he told theCooperator.

“When the vaccine is out, we will also do an evaluation and give our customers the confidence that the product we are giving them is efficient,” he added.

Supplementing Diksoka, Dr. Baguma noted that the research was now at the processing stage and that the institute was counting on the government to financially support the research’s completion.  “We are presenting the country with a sustainable solution to the tick problem. When we’re done, we hope that the government can give us money to set up facilities to begin vaccine manufacture,” he said.

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