twitter RSS Feed linkedin acp contact

Report: African herders 'key in eradicating rinderpest'

New analysis published in the academic Science journal traces the cause of the recent global eradication of deadly cattle disease, rinderpest, and credits local African herders for their insight and assistance

The rinderpest virus. (Image source: Dr Rajnish Kaushik)The rinderpest virus. (Image source: Dr Rajnish Kaushik)

 The study explains how the herders enabled the development of a new, heat-resistant vaccine and guided scientists in deciding which animals to immunise and when.

The study provides new insight into how the successful battle against rinderpest in Africa, the last stronghold of the disease, might be applied to similar diseases that today ravage the livestock populations on which the livelihoods of one billion of the world’s poor depend.

Capable of wiping out a family’s cattle in just a few days, rinderpest was declared vanquished in May 2011. After smallpox, it is only the second disease, after smallpox, (and the first livestock disease) ever to be eradicated from the earth.

“The elimination of rinderpest is an enormous triumph against a disease that has plagued animals and humankind for centuries,” said Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

“Science succeeded despite limited resources, and we now know how.

“We are committed to applying the lessons in this study to making progress against other similarly destructive livestock diseases.”

According to the analysis, which was conducted by international scientists coordinated by the ILRI, the eradication of rinderpest happened thanks to the development of an effective temperature-stable vaccine, collaborations between veterinary health officials and cattle farmers to deliver those vaccines, and reliance on the knowledge and expertise of the local herders to determine the location and movement of outbreaks.

The origins of Rinderpest, known as ‘cattle plague’ in English, are thought to lay in the dense cattle herds of Central Eurasia more than two millennia ago and the disease subsequently spread through warfare and trade to cattle in Europe, Asia and eventually Africa.

Caused by a virus related to the one that causes measles and canine distemper, rinderpest infected cows, water buffalos and other cloven-hoofed animals, leading to a high fever, severe diarrhoea, then dehydration and emaciation.

The pathogen could kill 90 per cent of a herd, wiping out an entire farm’s livestock in just a matter of days. There was no treatment.

While rinderpest is not dangerous to human health, its impact on humanity has been significant.

The first major contributing factor to eradication, which was identified by the analysis, was a major improvement made to an existing rinderpest vaccine.

While the original vaccine was safe, effective, affordable, and easy to produce, it needed to be refrigerated—making it nearly impossible to transport it to remote rural villages.

With the development of a new heat-resistant vaccine formulation in 1990 that could be stored at 37°C for eight months, and in the field without refrigeration for 30 days, scientists had a tool that would become the cornerstone of the eradication effort in remote pastoral areas of Africa.

According to ILRI’s Jeffrey Mariner, the analysis’ lead author and inventor of the temperature-stable rinderpest vaccine, it was the role played by pastoralists that truly helped eradicate rinderpest.

As part of a public-private-community partnership, Mariner and his colleagues trained what they called community-based animal health workers, or CAHWs, local pastoralists who were willing to travel on foot and able to work in remote areas, on how to deliver the new vaccine.

The CAHWs carried the vaccine from herd to herd, immunising all of the cattle in their communities.

The local herders performed as well, if not better, than the veterinarians at vaccinating the herds.

In fact they often achieving higher than 80 per cent herd immunity in a short time which was remarkable for a disease that had caused major issues for so many years.

The pastoralists were not only very, very good at delivering the vaccine, but that they also knew more about the disease and how to stop it than many of the experts.

“We soon discovered that the livestock owners knew more than anyone, including government officials, researchers or veterinarians, where outbreaks were occurring,” Mariner said.

“It was their expertise about the sizes of cattle herds, their location, seasonal movement patterns and optimal time for vaccination that made it possible for us to eradicate rinderpest.”

Based on their immense expertise about migratory patterns and in recognising early signs of infection, the herders were able to pinpoint, well before scientists ever could, where some of the final outbreaks were occurring, often where conventional surveillance activities had failed to disclose disease.

Harnessing this knowledge of rinderpest through “participatory surveillance” of outbreaks to CAHW delivery of vaccination proved to be the most successful approach to monitoring and controlling the disease. It effectively removed the disease from some of the hardest-to-reach, but also most disease-ridden, communities.

In their analysis, Mariner and colleagues consider how the lessons learned from battling rinderpest can be applied to protect livestock from other infectious agents, particularly peste des petits ruminants (PPR) or ‘goat plague’.

As a result, ILRI and the Africa Union/Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources are planning to host the next meeting of the PPR Alliance, a partnership of research and development organisations who prioritise PPR, in Nairobi in early 2013.

Go to www.ilri.org for further details.


LATEST NEWS IN Cattle

Intracare launches the world’s most eco-friendly hoof bandage

Intracare launches the world’s most eco-…

Intracare, developer and supplier of products for veterinary health and nutrition, has come up with the world’s most eco-friendly hoof bandage, which will be available worldwide

Nutreco receives grant to provide sustainable feed solutions for small-scale producers

Nutreco receives grant to provide sustai…

Nutreco, a global animal nutrition leader, has received a US$4.8mn grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the implementation of localised, sustainable complete feed production in sub-Saharan...

Volatility: challenges in animal feeding

Volatility: challenges in animal feeding

As price volatility propels the use of alternative feed ingredients, Adisseo's team discusses how the quality of diets and the performance of animals can be maintained in such situations

Tackling transboundary animal diseases in Zimbabwe

Tackling transboundary animal diseases i…

To curb high impact transboundary animal diseases in Zimbabwe, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development launched the animal health...

Nuclear techniques help Zambia ensure safety in animal food products

Nuclear techniques help Zambia ensure sa…

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) are working with Zambian experts to address drug resistant microbes as well as food contamination in meat...

Evonik publishes first edition of animal diet

Evonik publishes first edition of animal…

Evonik, a German-based specialty chemicals company has published the first edition of the MetAMINO ATLAS displaying the results of 15 performance trials investigating the relative bioavailability of supplementary methionine sources...

Prev Next

OTHER RELATED ARTICLES - Cattle

Ugandan cattle farmers to establish US$7 million modern abattoir

Ugandan cattle farmers to establish US$7…

Cattle farmers in Uganda have finished preparations for the construction of a US$7mn modern abattoir to assist them with exporting meat products overseas

Kenya to waive import duty on animal feed raw materials

Kenya to waive import duty on animal fee…

In a bid to boost dairy farming, Kenya’s government is planning to waive the duty on raw materials imported for manufacture of animal feeds

USAID launches Cargill, Ausvet, Heifer International and IPC consortium

USAID launches Cargill, Ausvet, Heifer I…

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has tapped a consortium led by Cargill including Ausvet, Heifer International, and the International Poultry Council (IPC) to improve livestock management

Zimbabwe launches ‘cattle bank’ scheme

Zimbabwe launches ‘cattle bank’ scheme

Zimbabwe’s TN Bank has announced it has begun accepting cattle as collateral for cash loans

FAO and OIE collaborate to curb animal disease

FAO and OIE collaborate to curb animal d…

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) will join forces to control the spread of animal disease to improve food safety and...

Namibian farmers welcome decision to lift cattle breeding export ban

Namibian farmers welcome decision to lif…

The Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) and the Namibia National Farmers Union have praised the Nambian Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry for lifting a ban on breeding domestic livestock abroad

Gulf trade drives record Somali livestock exports

Gulf trade drives record Somali livestoc…

Somalia has registered record livestock exports for 2014 due to a rise in trade with the Gulf States

Ireland to foster collaboration with Algeria and Egypt for agri-food exports

Ireland to foster collaboration with Alg…

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Bord Bia, the Irish food board, will lead a trade mission to Algeria and Egypt, together with a delegation representing the...

Kenyan Dairy Board pushes SACCO model

Kenyan Dairy Board pushes SACCO model

The Kenyan Dairy Board is pushing a savings and credit cooperative organisation (SACCO) model among milk traders to streamline and transform the sector

Egyptian firm sets up US$11mn abbatoire in Uganda

Egyptian firm sets up US$11mn abbatoire …

Egypt-Uganda Food Security has invested US$11mn in an abattoir near Bombo town in Luwero district, central Uganda

CH4 plans to turn red seaweed into feed supplement for cows

CH4 plans to turn red seaweed into feed …

Sustainable agriculture company CH4 plans to build the first farm and processing plant to turn red seaweed into a feed supplement for cows in order to reduce their methane production...

Prev Next