Cattle / East Africa / ILRI / Kenya / Livelihoods / Livestock / Livestock Systems / Research

In Kenya, better cows for better health

shelley-mutant-cow-101909A parasite researcher in NYU is hoping totackle African Sleeping Sickness by creating genetically enhanced cows that cannot catch or transmit the disease.

She’s been planning the project since 2006, when she attended a workshop in Nairobi. At the meeting, local farmers explained how they need cattle to survive. Most of them can’t afford to eat meat or drink milk, but instead use cattle to plough their fields.  Unfortunately, cattle also act as a reservoir for sleeping sickness, which is caused by trypanosomes, a parasite transmitted between humans and cows by the tsetse fly. Raper believes that introducing immune cows to tropical Africa, starting with Kenya, will reduce the number of infected people and save their cows.

“I had no idea how much people relied on them for sustenance until I went there,” she says. “Since then, I’ve been absolutely determined to make this cow.”

But Raper still needs to figure out if a gene that works in mice will also work in a cow. To do so, she will collaborate with veterinarians, experts in genetically engineered cattle and members of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, a non-profit organization that helps local people by improving livestock quality. If Raper can make an immune cow, she will transfer the operation to the ILRI, which is equipped to create GM cows in Kenya.

Read more (Scienceline)

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