UGANDA – A research, led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) under the Boosting Uganda’s Investment in Livestock Development (BUILD) project, has highlighted that small ruminants, particularly sheep and goats, are more susceptible to brucellosis disease than cattle and pigs.

As Uganda practices mixed husbandry, herding small ruminants and cattle together, the potential for brucellosis transmission becomes a grave concern for smallholders.

Brucellosis, a bacterial disease affecting major food animals, except poultry, and some wildlife species, ranks fourth among the seven priority zoonotic diseases for control in Uganda.

It spreads when infected pregnant animals abort, releasing large amounts of bacteria into the environment, which can then contaminate pastures and water sources, infecting other animals.

The disease poses a significant public health threat as it can be transmitted to humans through the consumption of unpasteurized milk and contact with body fluids from infected animals.

The BUILD project, in collaboration with researchers from the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI), Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries, Makerere University, and ILRI, carried out the study to assess the extent of brucellosis among livestock in Uganda.

By collecting data from regional slaughterhouses and smaller abattoirs in Lira, Mbale, Soroti, and Kampala, the study aimed to identify high-risk areas and prioritize early detection and prevention.

The research involved testing blood samples from 925 small ruminants, 886 cattle, and 900 pigs. Shockingly, the study found that small ruminants showed a significantly higher prevalence of brucellosis, with 6.7% (51/925) of tested animals being positive.

In contrast, only 3.8% (31/886) of cattle and 2.8% (17/900) of pigs tested positive. This revelation underscores the urgent need for targeted interventions in small ruminant husbandry practices.

Challenges in controlling brucellosis spread

The study also shed light on the challenges of controlling brucellosis in eastern Uganda, particularly in the Karamoja subregion, where communal land ownership and grazing practices prevail.

Under these conditions, controlling the spread of Brucella and implementing disease control strategies become considerably more difficult.

In response to the concerning findings, James Bugeza, the lead researcher, emphasizes that brucellosis control efforts should prioritize high-risk regions.

Implementing stakeholder mobilization, awareness campaigns, vaccination drives, on-farm biosecurity practices, regular testing, and sourcing livestock from brucellosis-free herds/flocks can be instrumental in curbing the spread of the disease.

Enforcing strict animal movement controls is also crucial in mitigating the risks associated with transhumant movement of livestock.

The research conducted under the BUILD project was made possible through funding from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

In addition, support from the CGIAR Research Programs on Livestock and Agriculture for Nutrition and Health and the CGIAR Fund Donors further bolstered the project’s efforts in strengthening livestock development in Uganda.

This multi-faceted initiative highlights the importance of international cooperation in addressing critical challenges in the agriculture and livestock sectors.

The dissemination of the study’s findings and training tools to relevant agencies and initiatives promises to extend the project’s impact and contribute to the development of a robust food safety framework in Uganda.

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