News / Africa

    New Vaccine Research Aimed at Cattle Killer

    A woman from the cattle herding Mundari tribe walks early morning in a settlement near Terekeka, Central Equatoria state, south Sudan, January 19, 2011.
    A woman from the cattle herding Mundari tribe walks early morning in a settlement near Terekeka, Central Equatoria state, south Sudan, January 19, 2011.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Joe DeCapua
    New research is underway to develop an advanced vaccine against East Coast fever – a parasitic disease that killed more than one-million cattle in Africa last year. Researchers say the project also could lead to better treatments for malaria and cancer in humans. 


    International Livestock Research Institute says East Coast fever was found in 11 African countries in 2013. It caused $300-million in losses. The Nairobi-based institute warns the disease is spreading rapidly and poses a threat to 28-million cattle.

    Vish Nene says the disease is caused by a parasite that’s transmitted by a tick bite.

    “East Coast fever is described as a cancer-like disease of cattle. And the reason for that is there is a huge expansion of infected white blood cells that occurs post-infection. And these infected white blood cells behave like cancer cells. So they proliferate in an uncontrolled fashion. They spread throughout the body of an infected animal. Eventually, you can get depression of immune responses.”

    Nene, who heads the institute’s Vaccine Biosciences Program, said East Coast fever can eventually cause pulmonary edema -- a potentially fatal build-up of fluid in the lungs.

    “The disease is very acute. It’ll kill an animal within three to four weeks of infection. All the signs and symptoms, et cetera – because of that scientists describe this as a lymphoproliferative disease. And that’s the link with human cancers,” he said. 

    A lymphoproliferative disease is one in which white blood cells are produced in excessive amounts. Also, the fact it’s caused by a parasite makes East Coast fever similar to malaria.

    Despite the risk it poses to millions of cattle, the disease has not received as much attention as might be expected.

    “It’s a huge problem,” he said, “Part of the reason for perhaps not having a wider awareness of this disease is that it occurs only in sub-Saharan Africa. And so it hasn’t really reached the dimensions of where it’s got the attention of other people.”

    There is a treatment and a current vaccine available. Both are very expensive for African farmers – eight to 12 dollars a dose. The drug must be used very early in the disease and may leave cattle weaker and less productive.

    The current vaccine has been available for many years. It’s made in part by grinding up ticks infected with the parasites.

    Nene said, “It was made based on the observation that if an animal recovered from an infection it was solidly immune to reinfection. So scientists started to work on that observation and what they started to do was to deliberately infect an animal and then treat it so that it recovered. That is the basis of what is called the infection and treatment method of immunization. And that is what the live vaccine is. That’s the current vaccine that’s being used.”

    Some cattle spontaneously recover from East Coast fever, while others respond to treatment. The reason, he said, appears to be the same – killer T-cells produced by the immune system.

    “These killer T-cells can identify the infected white blood cells and they kill those cells. And that is what gives rise to immunity.”

    The International Livestock Research Institute has received an $11 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop an advanced vaccine for the disease. Nene said that researchers hope to accomplish two things.

    “In addition to the killer T-cells that I mentioned, we also know that antibodies play a role in immunity. So we have two prongs that we are trying to address. One is: can we raise a potent antibody response that protects the animal? And can we raise a potent killer T-cell response that also protects the animals? Either one alone may work -- either one alone and then both combined to see if that’s more efficacious,” he said.

    If successful, Nene said, the vaccine would be cheaper, safer and much more available. And, unlike the current vaccine, would not have to be stored in extreme cold, namely liquid nitrogen.

    Nene added that developing the new vaccine will take time – possibly 10 to 15 years barring any research breakthroughs. Researchers are expected to share their findings with those trying to develop a malaria vaccine and vice-versa.

    Besides East Coast fever, the institute is helping to develop vaccines for African swine fever, goat plague, contagious bovine lung plague and Rift valley fever.

    You May Like

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.