In East Africa, livestock provides a source of family income for millions of people. A strong livestock sector is therefore crucial for enhancing food security and for reducing poverty in the region. However, endemic diseases of livestock and wildlife undermine efforts towards strengthening this sector. Matters are further complicated by the transboundary movement of wildlife and pastoralists with their livestock. The main focus of this project is foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), a highly contagious viral disease of great economic importance. Control of FMD in Africa is complicated and requires input from several sources. The major contribution of this project is enhancement of diagnostic and epidemiological research capacity to enable the partners in Africa to use state-of-the-art molecular and serological methods. Collaborative research will generate the capability for rapid diagnosis of FMD, so that appropriate control measures can be applied, like the choice of the best available vaccine. This will be achieved by improving and establishing laboratory facilities, strengthening research and networks on FMD as well as educating PhD and MSc students. Furthermore, the project will greatly enhance our understanding of the current disease situation and the contribution of the wildlife-livestock interface in the epidemiology of the disease. The overall outcome is an improvement in capacity to respond to transboundary livestock-wildlife diseases in East Africa.
Midterm report 2014:
The project has contributed to the existing knowledge and information base concerning FMD in livestock and wildlife in eastern Africa. The findings in the project can be used as a basis for strategies for undertaking further research on FMD and its control in eastern Africa. It has elucidated the current complex epidemiological situation,including the knowledge of serotypes and strains of FMDV that are presently in circulation and the roles played by different host species. It has identified the currently circulating serotypes in Eastern Africa as O, A, SAT 1 and SAT 2. Serotype SAT 3 has recently (2013) been found in a calf in Uganda; it was previously most recently found in 1997 in a buffalo from Uganda. Serotype C FMDV has been observed previously in Kenya but may now be extinct. The project has pointed out gaps in this knowledge that have contributed to FMD endemicity in the region. With regard to how wildlife and livestock interact, only the SAT serotypes were found circulating among buffalo, yet the other serotypes (O and A), together with various strains of SAT 1 and SAT 2 were found circulating among cattle. Comparison of the buffalo SAT serotype FMDVs with those found in cattle suggested that buffalo maintained virus lineages in the wild that were evolving separately from those found in livestock in this region. This finding is rather surprising and requires further detailed studies given that the prevailing view is that wildlife can be an important source of disease for livestock.