Biotechnology / Diagnostics / Disease Control / ECF / Film and video / Kenya / Livestock / RVF / Vaccines

Finding a needle in a (molecular) haystack: A decade-long search for a parasite molecule on which to build a new vaccine against East Coast fever comes to fruition

For the November 2011 ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ event at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Roger Pellé, a molecular biologist from Cameroon, reflects on ILRI’s biotechnology research accomplishments over the past decade that have involved partnerships with centres and countries in Africa.

‘I first came to ILRI in 1990 to work on trypanosomosis, a cattle disease spread by the tsetse fly in much of Africa. Ten years later, I moved to work with a team that was working to find a vaccine for East Coast fever, another of Africa’s major livestock diseases.

‘One of our greatest achievements in the last 10 years has been the discovery—through collaboration with African institutions working on animal diseases—of an antigen that enabled the development of a vaccine against East Coast fever.

‘During this period, we managed, for the first time, to identify a “credible candidate antigen” that was shown, in the lab, to induce the same type of protection that a live vaccine could offer.

‘Even though this finding does not mean that livestock keepers will immediately access the vaccine—trials about its final effect in the field are still taking place—the discovery of the antigen was a critical step towards our understanding of how the vaccine will work and how the elements it contains will induce protection when the live vaccine is used.

‘Between 2006 and 2007, we also worked with partners across Africa, such as the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and national research centres, to improve the diagnostics for, and surveillance of, the bird flu epidemic. We brought together African human health and veterinary research experts from across the continent and trained them in rapid diagnostics and advanced surveillance methods. This was the first time this kind of joint training between human health and animal research experts was carried out in Africa.

‘The challenge for us now lies in finalizing work on the East Coast fever vaccine so that farmers can use it to protect their livestock from the disease.’

Watch the 4-minute interview with Roger Pellé .


On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosts a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event will synthesize sector and ILRI learning and help frame future livestock research for development directions.

The liveSTOCK Exchange will also mark the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General.  See all posts in this series / Sign up for email alerts

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