Five diseases, one vaccine - a boost for emerging livestock farmers in South Africa

By David B Wallace, Arshad Mather, Thireshni Chetty, Safiyya Goga and Shawn Babiuk


Livestock are essential to the economic, nutritional and social wellbeing of African farmers. Besides providing food, clothing and other products, they are a measure of wealth and social standing; they are used for barter, as bride price (lobola) at traditional weddings, and also as a ‘bank’, whereby animals can be sold to pay for emergency needs, such as funerals. Given the diverse uses of livestock and their socio-economic importance in farming communities, the loss of even a single animal has a significant and sometimes crippling effect on a family. But unfortunately, the African continent is home to 12 of the 16 most devastating animal diseases globally and eight of these occur predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of these are viral diseases and have been described as a bane for agricultural development.

South African and Canadian scientists are developing two innovative livestock vaccines that are affordable and heat-stable, while giving long-term protection. With the 5-in-1 vaccine, a single injection will protect goats, sheep, and cattle against five important viral diseases. A second vaccine will, for the first time, provide vaccination protection for pigs against African swine fever. The Researchers are also studying economic and social factors associated with vaccine development. They are evaluating the vaccines' economic impacts and their relevance to ensure that small-scale farmers take them up.

Senior scientists at the Agricultural Research Council-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute in South Africa have assembled an international research team to develop a combination vaccine giving protection against five important livestock diseases: Rift Valley fever (RVF), lumpy skin disease (LSD), sheep pox (SPP), goat pox (GTP) and peste des petits ruminants (PPR). The 5-in-1 vaccine will have low production costs (and therefore be affordable to emerging farmers), be heat-stable and give long-term protection, potentially only requiring a single injection. Research is also targeting the development of a second vaccine, to protect pigs against African swine fever (ASF).

The first stage of the 5-in-1 vaccine development is complete, with pilot studies under contained conditions indicating that the vaccine protects cattle against LSD, sheep against SPP and goats against GTP. Stage two is now in progress, under which the RVF and PPR protective components are being included.