Africa / Animal Diseases / Biotechnology / Directorate / Disease Control / ECF / ILRI / ILRIComms / ILVAC / LIVESTOCKFISH / Opinion piece / USA / Vaccines

Vaccine cliff-hanger (‘parasite page-turner’) on Gates’ blog

The Moschophoros (calf-bearer), archaic statue, 570 BC, Acropolis Museum.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog, Impatient Optimists, is running a piece about ‘an unusual story . . . unfolding in Africa, where the battle against a cattle-killing disease called East Coast fever is quickly becoming a cliff-hanger.’

The article is written by Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and works worldwide to reduce poverty, hunger and environmental degradation through better livestock livelihoods.

Here’s an excerpt:

‘It’s a story about hunger and poverty and the central role of livestock in the diets, economies and cultures of developing countries. And it’s a story about a creative group of scientists waging a decades-long battle against East Coast fever and coming up with novel solutions, like a vaccine made of ground-up infected ticks.

‘The latest installment is just now being written. So far, it involves many of these same scientists launching a consortium last week at my institute, in Nairobi, Kenya, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This consortium is devoted to making a new and better vaccine for the disease, one that involves a compelling plot twist, as it could link the fate of poor livestock keepers in Africa to that of cancer and malaria victims the world over.

‘The central protagonist in this drama is a single-celled parasite called Theileria parva that’s carried by a common tick and now threatens the lives of tens of millions of cattle in Africa, with the more productive breeds proving particularly vulnerable. . . .

‘Clearly, a lot is riding on the outcome of this story—particularly as the narrative now involves conflict-ridden South Sudan, where the disease is now endemic and threatens to spread to the troubled Central African Republic to the west and the great cattle-keeping communities of Ethiopia to the east. . . .’

This East Coast fever vaccine project is supported by a USD11-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (USA), with additional support coming from partners in a new consortium established to battle this African cattle killing disease. These partners/investors include the Centre for Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases (Malawi); GALVmed, a livestock-oriented non-profit product development partnership (UK); the Institute for Genome Sciences (University of Maryland, USA); the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp (Belgium); the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh, UK); the Royal Veterinary College (UK); the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS); and Washington State University (USA).

Read the whole article by Jimmy Smith on the BMGF Impatient Optimists blog: Parasite page-turner: Africa’s battle with a cattle killer takes new, unexpected turns, 3 Feb 3014.

If you’re visiting the Impatient Optimists blog, you might also check out this post: The miracle of vaccines (and our New Year resolution), 16 Dec 2013.

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