Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Foot and Mouth Disease Lab

Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) initiated a Foot and Mouth Virus (FMDV) Study Project and opened up a Foot and Mouth Disease Virus Diagnostic Laboratory in June 2014. The ultimate aim of the program is studying the FMDV strains around Uganda and coming up with effective control measures and appropriate vaccines. The project is titled: “Research and Development of Countermeasures to Support the Control of FMDV in Uganda: Development of Improved Diagnostic Tools for a Comprehensive Surveillance Program”. The work is supported by the United States of America Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is implemented between Uganda Virus Research Institute, the Uganda Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF) and College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (COVAB), Makerere University. The studies are also carried out in collaboration with the Ben Gurion University of the Negev together with the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. Our field operations are carried out in the districts of Nakaseke, Gomba, Isingiro and Mbale.

The main objectives of the research are:

  1. Support fundamental and applied research to build strong collaborative ties with Ugandan scientists working on FMD.
  2. Support development and use of biotechnology in Uganda to benefit the animal agricultural sector. The UVRI capacity is being enhanced through the procurement of critical equipment, implementation of procedures for virus characterization and diagnostics.
  3. In close collaboration with MAAIF, surveillance, identification of the local circulating strains including the genetics of FMDV in Uganda will be performed. The ecosystem of FMDV by determining the animals that comprise the local reservoir will be determined through:
    1. Surveillance and analyses of circulating FMDV strains without establishment of any strain collection to mitigate risk from select agent collections.
    2. Enhance partner country’s capability to detect, diagnose, and report endemic and epidemic man-made or natural disease outbreaks and potential pandemics.
    3.  Ensure the developed capabilities are designed to be sustainable within each partner country’s current operating budget.

The project addresses several immediate priorities on FMDV disease including: evaluating disease prevalence, enhancing surveillance and epidemiological tools, identification of potential field sites in endemic areas for further study and expanding diagnostic and research training of a new cohort of investigators. The laboratory is now furnished with equipment to enable RT-PCR and NPS ELISA tests.

Foot and Mouth disease is a viral disease that affects cloven footed animals like cattle, sheep, goats, swine and wild animals. It’s one of the most important trans-boundary diseases that undermines livestock production, marketing and consumption.

In Uganda the disease was first reported and confirmed in the 1950s and it has now become endemic with outbreaks occurring almost every year especially in cattle. The virus has seven serotypes which do not cross protect and therefore there is need for us to know which serotypes are circulating in order to plan for specific vaccines.  FMDV was reported and confirmed in over 30 Ugandan districts including those in the cattle corridor in 2014 alone. The FMDV has continued to be reported in many districts of Uganda even in 2015.

MAAIF has always imposed quarantines in the affected districts which comes with big economic and big complications for the livelihood of the communities; and affects the revenue collections of the nation at large. We hope that this study will come up with guiding information on how best to handle the problem of FMD in the country.

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