Tom Olaka, a community animal health worker in Karamajong, northern Uganda, was part of a vaccination campaign in remote areas of the Horn of Africa that drove the cattle plague rinderpest to extinction in 2010 (photo credit: Christine Jost).
Fred Pearce writes in New Scientist about How African herders rid the planet of a disease, citing a veterinary epidemiologist named Jeffrey Mariner, who works in the Nairobi animal health laboratories of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) (13 Sep 2012).
‘Out in the bush, scientists should be humble and bow to the greater knowledge of locals. A paper out today tells the story of how rinderpest—a cattle plague that brought down empires and caused some of Africa’s worst famines—was finally eradicated, in May last year.
‘According to Jeffrey Mariner of Tufts University in North Grafton, Maryland [and now at ILRI]—one of the key players in the eradication—it was achieved by using the expertise of local cattle herders rather than the floundering efforts of outsiders. He and his colleagues advocate applying this “barefoot” strategy to other animal diseases. . . .
‘[After many false starts by international organizations,] Mariner and other scientists developed a heat-resistant vaccine that needed no refrigeration and so could be kept in remote locations that did not have electricity.
Then—often despite opposition from official vets—they began recruiting cattle herders to wield the syringes.
‘The herders would walk for days in regions where vets in four-wheel drives seldom ventured. Most critical of all, says Mariner, they used their local knowledge of the disease and the movements of cattle to target vaccination drives. . . .
‘Mariner hopes to start work next year on distributing a new heat-resistant vaccine for the “goat plague”—or peste des petits ruminants—which is endemic in much of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. . . .’
Read the whole article in New Scientist: How African herders rid the planet of a disease (13 Sep 2012).
Read the ILRI News Blog about this: New analysis in ‘Science’ tells how world eradicated deadliest cattle plague from the face of the Earth, 13 Sep 2012.
Read the paper in Science (subscription required to read full text): Rinderpest eradication: Appropriate technology and social innovations, by Jeffrey Mariner, James House, Charles Mebus, Albert Sollod, Dickens Chibeu, Bryony Jones, Peter Roeder, Berhanu Admassu, Gijs van ’t Klooster, 14 September 2012, Vol. 337 no. 6100 pp. 1309–1312, DOI: 10.1126/science.1223805.
Read previous articles on the ILRI News and Clippings blogs about the eradication of rinderpest: