By Spy Uganda
Ugandan Scientists under The National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) are in advanced stages of producing an anti-tick vaccine that will save farmers up to shs 3trilion annually, money they would be spending on buying different acaricides to spray their cattle, loss of animals, multiple spaying weekly among others.
This was revealed on Friday, May 26, 2023, during an engagement meeting between NARO and online journalists under their Umbrella organization, The Independent Online Journalists Association–Uganda (INDOJA-U) at Fairway Hotel, Kampala.
Dr. Kabi Fredrick, the Principal Research Officer (PRO) at NARO said during the meeting that the vaccine, which is already being rolled out for the final trial stage of trials, passed the tests for the initial stages of pre-qualification.
“Acaricides have been used to kill ticks for the last 100 years, leading to gradual loss of potency, environmental and food contamination and death of non-target life. But our Anti-tick vaccines trigger antibody production into blood sucked by ticks, leading to blockage of enzymes and disabling tick feeding, growth and production,” Dr Kabi said.
He added that researchers in this project are in the middle of final trials at NARO agro-zones and institutional farms, which include; Mbarara ZARDI, Isimba Prison Farm in Masindi district, Kiburara Prison Farm in Ibanda district, Maruzi Research Station in Apac district and Nabuin ZARDI in Nabilatuk district.
“These locations represent the Pastoral Rangelands, Western Highlands, Lake Albert Crescent, Mid-North Savannah Grasslands and Karomaja Drylands Agro-Ecological Zones respectively,” he noted.
According to Kabi, upon the successful conclusion of the trial, the anti-tick vaccine will be available and ready for scaling up for use by livestock farmers, saving the country from an annual economic loss of over UGX 3.8 trillion caused by ticks and tick-borne diseases.
“Currently, Uganda loses over UGX 2.5-3.8 trillion annually due to ticks (Anaemia, high treatment costs, and control measures, production losses, low-grade products) thus loss of market, which keeps Ugandan farmers in poverty,” Kabi said.
He added that “Livestock farmers are used to spraying their animals every week, but with this vaccine, they will spray twice every 6 months.”
Economic Implications Of Anti-Tick Vaccine To Uganda
Dr Kabi explained that upon successful completion of this field trial in the different geographical settings and approval, the product will be licensed for integration into the present tick control program in Uganda.
He noted that the application of this intervention will lead to numerous benefits including;
- A reduction in the frequency of acaricide use by atleast 90% (from spraying twice a week to twice in 6 months), with a resulting reduction in production labour costs. This will help the farmers to break even at a low cost.
- A reduction in chemical importation from 350 tons to less than 170 tons, equivalent to a saving of UShs1.0 trillion over 3 years.
- Less tick burden, leading to better quality hides and skins.
- Reduction in the incidence of sickness and deaths attributed to ticks and tick-borne diseases by 90%, with reduced household expenditure on livestock production.
- Faster livestock growth rate (weight gain) and milk production, leading to increased farm productivity.
- Delayed development and eventual elimination of tick acaricide resistance.
- Decreased environmental and animal food pollution, thereby leading to better quality or safer meat and milk products.
Kabi however emphasized that these vaccines are developed from ticks found within Uganda and are fully owned by Uganda.
He concluded by hailing the journalists’ umbrella body INDOJA-U under the able leadership of its president Mr Andrew Irumba, for having come together to unite the online/digital media fraternity.
“I think we have been having the issue of lack of media organization. We wouldn’t work best with people who are not organized. Now that we have you under the Independent Online Journalists Association Uganda (INDOJA), we can now sit and agree on how best we can work together,” he said.
In his remarks, Irumba, who doubles as CEO for the mighty Spy Uganda and Detective-UG, acknowledged the hard work put in by the scientists, and applauded NARO for the engagement and requested them to always engage Online Media because it is now the face of today’s media.
“Local content is very key. The future is digital, the future is online and now is the time to work together. As INDOJA, we shall work together with NARO,” he said, adding that professionalism is also key for successful online media, but let all other MDAs embrace what NARO has done, to engage the online Media and create a narrative together that best suites our interests as a country and community. When you engage the media earlier, you avoid fire 🔥 fighting and minimize resources,” Irumba said.
Irumba added thus; “It’s also worth noting that indoja-U members saved Uganda airlines from a syndicated Media campaign that was carefully choreographed to collapse it down because of certain selfish interests by certain individuals. We were called in time and we ‘balanced the 🚢 boat by sharing the facts and eventually the truth won. We also went ahead and trained our members on Aviation reporting. Aviation has its own language that an ordinary reporter will not understand. So I call upon other MDAs to emulate such methods of closely working with us”.
The meeting was also attended by representatives from Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC), National Drug Authority (NDA) and National Biosafety Committee, among others.
Dr Andrew Kiggundu, the Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC) chairman, applauded NARO scientists for thinking beyond the box and coming up with the Anti-tick Vaccine. He said that whereas technology has advanced over the years, there is also a need to conserve the environment.
It should be noted that in Uganda, the most common ticks responsible for high economic losses are the brown ear ticks (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus), blue ticks (R. decoloratus), bont ticks (Amblyomma variegatum) and red ticks (R. evertsi).
These ticks infest cattle, goats and sheep while transmitting disease organisms. Wild ruminants usually act as their natural hosts, the reason why the new Ant-Tick Vaccine will be very vital in eliminating them.