Newcastle Disease Control Programme Delayed

UGANDA - A project to produce Newcastle disease vaccine has run into financial difficulties and is now delayed.
calendar icon 27 April 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

A project to multiply a unique poultry vaccine to save millions of Ugandan birds from the Newcastle disease has delayed due to lack of funding, Sunday Monitor reports.

The project being undertaken by the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) in Kampala is intended to produce the thermostable vaccine developed by scientists at the National Livestock Research Institute (NaLIRRI) in Tororo to save local birds from the disease.

The vaccine, unlike many others on the market, does not require refrigeration. It is in powder form and can be applied in poultry water and feed – ideal for the largely rural Ugandan poultry industry.

But Dr Charles Kwesigwa, the Institute's executive director, says they are still looking for over one billion shillings (UGX; US$ 460,000) to kick-start the project.

"We are still looking for funds to install the necessary machines to do the work. But we have already done the renovation of the premises where we are going to operate," Dr Kwesigwa said.

Newcastle disease is the biggest health threat to Ugandan poultry.

"It can kill the entire brood within days," Dr Abed Bwanika, the former President of Uganda Veterinary Association (UVA) told Sunday Monitor.

Dr Bwanika estimates that up to 80 per cent of deaths of local breed chicken in Uganda is caused by ND. He says the disease has no cure and the only way to protect poultry is to vaccinate them.

However, most small-scale farmers are unable to use the commercially available vaccines, which require refrigeration. Yet a vaccine that was developed to suit their conditions has been put on hold for five years.

Before his death in a motor accident recently, Dr James Illango, who led a team that developed the vaccine at NaLIRRI, said it can be stored at room temperature and formulated for small flocks.

He had said that the vaccine can be mixed in poultry drinking water or dropped in the birds' eyes, making it suitable for indigenous poultry. He described it as 'a major milestone' in the protection of local poultry, and said that there could be no intervention in poultry in the country, without addressing this disease.

It took four years and UGX 150 million, much of it from the British Department for International Development (DFID) to develop the vaccine that has now been now put on hold.

The thermostable vaccine was supposed to be mass-produced at a government laboratory based in Entebbe and then distributed to farmers.

The laboratory was closed down and was supposed to be transferred to Tororo but the equipment remains in storage at NaLIRRI. With the rising poultry prices – with birds going for about UGX 25,000 in some parts of Kampala – the economic cost of the losses caused by Newcastle disease can only keep rising.

Sunday Monitor reports that the disease is highly contagious and easily spreads from one bird to another. Because most indigenous chickens are allowed to roam freely, they easily pick the disease from the neighbourhood, it can easily spread to the entire village flock. It usually affects many birds at one time and an entire brood can die within a few days. Affected birds lose interest in feeding, become weak, sneeze and have greenish diarrhoea. Sometimes their heads and combs swell.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on Newcastle disease by clicking here.
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