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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More