March 16 - An international group of scientists is developing a vaccine to combat deadly East Coast Fever, a disease that decimates cattle herds in sub-Saharan Africa. The scientists believe the vaccine could also help malaria and cancer research. Jim Drury has more.
Millions of people across sub-Saharan Africa rely on cattle for their survival. But the spectre of East Coast Fever is a constant presence, threatening to decimate entire herds and the communities that depend on them. East Coast Fever is a disease caused by a parasite. Once infected cows rapidly lose weight, develop sores, and eventually die. But thanks partly to a grant from the Bill and Melnda Gates Foundation, scientists are now working on a new vaccine. The current treatment, introduced two years ago, has saved thousands of cattle's lives. But it has major disadvantages says Vish Nene, director of the International Livestock Research Institute. SOUNDBITE (English) VISH NENE, INTERNATIONAL LIVESTOCK RESEARCH INSTITUTE (ILRI) EAST COAST FEVER PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SAYING: "The vaccine is produced from live infected ticks....it is very difficult to produce, it requires antibiotic treatment, it is expensive, it takes a long time, it takes about 18 months to make a batch of vaccine, it needs sophisticated infrastructure for delivery so you need to have skilled veterinarians to deliver the vaccine and it's expensive." Nene's institute has formed a consortium of international scientists to develop an alternative. Part of the consortium is a team at Britain's Royal Veterinary College, led by Profesor Dirk Werling.He says the work so far is promising. SOUNDBITE (English) DIRK WERLING, PROFESSOR OF MOLECULAR IMMUNOLOGY AT ROYAL VETERINARY COLLEGE (RVC), SAYING: "At the RVC we have developed some vaccine platforms, meaning that we can deliver certain antigens independent of the disease we're interested in, but we know that these platforms hopefully induce a specific immune response, specific in a way that we think this is the most appropriate immune reponse needed to combat the disease the host is dealing with." UPSOT: RANCHER SPEAKING Kenyan rancher Agnes Lasoi Moyai says her cattle have benefited from the tick-based treatment, but hopes a less expensive, more effective vaccine will give her extra security. Werling hopes to have a prototype vaccine available within four years.