IDRC Project on Vaccines to combat livestock diseases in sub-Saharan Africa


The challenge - Infectious diseases are the single largest cause of financial losses to the agricultural livestock sector worldwide and remain the leading cause of death in humans. High levels of ill health and mortality in livestock, due to infectious diseases, disrupt international trade and contribute to food insecurity. The losses are even greater in sub-Saharan Africa where livestock production accounts for 25% of national income in some countries. Slaughtering infected animals is not feasible in Africa due to a lack of veterinary services, including disease testing and little or no compensation for destroyed animals. This has put the global spotlight on vaccines, which have proven to be the single, most cost-effective method of disease control. But while vaccines are available for many diseases, their cost, availability, delivery, and need for refrigeration often impede their widespread use, especially in isolated rural communities. An easy-to-use vaccine that is inexpensive, safe, easily stored, and transported would reduce livestock losses and improve livestock health and productivity, thus contributing to increased food availability, nutritional security, and the income of small-scale livestock keepers in rural Africa, particularly women whose livelihoods rely heavily on small animals.

The research - This project, supported by IDRC and DFATD through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), is applying modern biotechnology to engineer a thermo-stable, single-dose vaccine that protects cattle, sheep, and goats from five main diseases: lumpy skin disease, sheep pox, goat pox, Peste des Petits Ruminants, and Rift Valley fever. The project is also leveraging Canada and South Africa’s strengths in infectious disease management and vaccines development to produce the first commercial vaccine for African Swine-Fever, a highly contagious disease. Researchers, students, and technicians will work with various South African government departments and rural farmers to field test the new vaccines and educate farmers on their importance and use. If successful, researchers expect widespread use of the vaccines throughout Africa within three to eight years of the end of the project. The vaccines would increase food availability, raise economic returns, and make production outputs more reliable. This project’s novel vaccine delivery technology could also be applied to other existing and future diseases.

Expected outcomes

  • A single vaccine with proven efficacy, long shelf life, and heat resistance that can protect sheep, goats, and cattle from lumpy skin disease, sheep-and-goat pox, Peste des Petits Ruminants and Rift Valley fever
  • The first commercial vaccine for Africa Swine Fever
  • Smallholder farmers with the skills and knowledge to control livestock diseases
  • An implementation plan and roll out strategy for vaccine delivery in South Africa and elsewhere
  • Final vaccine formulae for production in South Africa and Canada, with local manufacturing in South Africa.

Lead Researchers

Dr. David Wallace, Agricultural Research Council, South Africa
Dr. Lorne Babiuk, University of Alberta, Canada.