AGRICULTURE NEWS - Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP), a vaccine manufacturer that falls under the agricultural department, has signed a licensing agreement with Moredun Institute in Scotland to acquire the technology which will lead to the final development, registration, and production of a vaccine against Bovine Malignant Catarrhal Fever (BMC) or “Snotsiekte”.
BMC has been causing serious losses in the cattle farming community over the past few decades in South Africa.
It is a notifiable and untreatable viral disease which is found in cattle and is predominantly transmitted by black and blue wildebeest.
Dr George Russell, principal scientist at the Moredun Research Institute said they have been working on a protective vaccine for BMC for more than fifteen years.
"Following successful experimental and field trials of the vaccine in the UK, Kenya and South Africa, Moredun is delighted to support this partnership with OBP to further develop the vaccine for use in Africa."
Dr Peter Oberem, veterinarian and game farmer, explained that the virus is carried specifically by healthy wildebeest. "When the wildebeest become stressed, due to calving or weaning, the immunity is suppressed and they shed the snotsiekte virus from the respiratory tract. Cattle within a vicinity of a kilometre of these shedding wildebeest will begin to show symptoms, a month or more after exposure."
Thousands of cattle die annually from this disease, which has caused economic losses for cattle farmers. Affected animals develop a severe pneumonia, which results in difficulty breathing and eventually suffocate from their own mucus. Cattle with advanced cases of snotsiekte are often euthanised, to prevent further suffering.
Dr Sello Maboe, veterinarian and technical manager at OBP, said there is currently no effective treatment. "While moving cattle away from wildebeest during high-risk periods helps, having a vaccine will help add a layer of protection to cattle herds, especially where movement of animals may not be practical. The availability of an effective vaccine will therefore be a huge milestone for food security in the control of this devastating disease that has become a serious problem in the cattle farming sector in South Africa. This will also help promote a healthy interface between cattle and game farming into the future, relieving tension between the two sectors and allowing recognition of the contribution each sector brings to the country’s agricultural economy.
OBP will work with partners in the South African livestock industry to further develop and improve the technologies.
It hopes to have the vaccine registered in South Africa. This is a scoop for OBP as there is currently no other BMC vaccine available, so it could be made available to other African countries where the disease causes problems in southern and East Africa.
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