UGANDA – In a collaboration between Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and experts from Spain’s Institute for Game and Wildlife Research (IREC, CSIC-UCLM-JCCM), a game-changing solution has emerged for one of the biggest challenges plaguing Uganda’s cattle industry: tick infestations.

The development of innovative anti-tick vaccines promises to transform livestock health, reducing economic losses and paving the way for a more sustainable and productive sector.

Ticks have long been a formidable adversary for cattle farmers, causing significant economic losses due to reduced productivity, health complications, and the spread of tick-borne diseases.

In Uganda alone, studies estimate annual losses exceeding USD 1.1 billion attributed to ticks and associated diseases such as East Coast fever, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and cowdriosis. This financial strain not only affects individual farmers but also has broader implications for the dairy and beef industries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where tick infestations are prevalent.

Historically, the primary method of tick control has relied heavily on chemical acaricides. While initially effective, this approach has led to challenges such as the development of acaricide-resistant tick populations, environmental contamination, and collateral damage to non-target organisms like bees and wild birds.

The escalating costs of developing and deploying new acaricides further compounded the issue, necessitating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative.

Anti-tick vaccines

Recognizing the urgent need for a transformative solution, the collaborative efforts between NARO and SaBio researchers led to the development of anti-tick vaccines tailored specifically for Uganda’s tick species.

These vaccines, derived from the Subolesin protein extracted from native tick species, offer a sustainable, effective, and environmentally sound alternative to chemical acaricides.

Extensive field trials conducted across five farms in different ecological zones of Uganda showcased the efficacy of the injectable anti-tick vaccine.

Notably, cattle that received the vaccine demonstrated robust protection against tick infestations, with no reported deaths due to ticks or tick-borne diseases during the trial periods. This success has paved the way for the patenting of both injectable and oral anti-tick vaccines by NARO, with plans underway for regulatory approval and widespread distribution.

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