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Affordable, Injection-Free Vaccine Promotes Livestock Health in Africa

Outbreaks of Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV), a hemorrhagic disease that affects the health of hundreds of thousands of animals critical to agriculture, as well as human health, occur in the Sub-Saharan belt of Eastern and Southern Africa. The disease causes substantial economic hardship: it creates losses in live goat, sheep and cattle exports as well as major shortages of meat and milk in rural and urban communities. RVFV is also transmissible to humans by mosquitos and through contact with the blood and tissues of infected livestock, and it is often deadly. As there are few treatments available for animals and no approved treatment or vaccine for humans, this disease can be devastating to smallholder farmers and pastoralists.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Rift Valley Fever Control in Agriculture, led by the University of Texas at El Paso in collaboration with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, is working to develop an improved, attenuated (weakened) viral vaccine for livestock to prevent RVFV in Africa.

The vaccine under development has been shown to be safe when administered to pregnant sheep and is protective against virulent forms of the disease. The vaccine also makes it possible to distinguish animals that have been vaccinated from those which are infected with RVFV, an important consideration when exporting animals for trade. A single dose of this vaccine is expected to cost less than 50 cents and should provide lifelong immunity in livestock. The Rift Valley Fever Innovation Lab is also exploring a needle-free delivery system to make it easier to administer the vaccine in the field and to reduce the risks of spreading the disease, as the same needle is sometimes used to vaccinate many animals in pastoralist communities.

The University of Texas at El Paso recently entered into a joint product development agreement with a major vaccine manufacturer, MCI Sante-Animale, a Moroccan company that specializes in producing and marketing veterinary medicines and vaccines. In collaboration with the Innovation Lab, MCI will begin developing the manufacturing process to create a safe and reliable vaccine and will assist in obtaining government approvals for testing and ultimately licensing the vaccine in countries across Africa.

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