How does the TicVac-U anti-tick vaccine work

How does TicVac-U ™ anti-tick vaccine work? Through which mechanisms does the TicVac-U vaccine work against East Coast Fever (ECF) and Babesiosis, the two major tick-borne diseases that affect cattle productivity in Uganda? In this article, I will explore what TicVac is, how it works, primarily looking at the mechanisms through which it helps to protect cattle from some of the deadliest tickborne diseases in Uganda

TicVac-U ™ is a commercial antitick vaccine developed in Uganda in an effort to address the challenge of ticks and tickborne diseases affecting livestock in the country. It was developed using vaccine candidate proteins from local ticks which have been exploited to produce an antitick vaccine that can effectively immunize local cattle to prevent EastCoastFever (ECF) and Babesiosis, the two most prevalent and economically important tickborne diseases affecting Uganda's cattle population.

The tickvaccine was developed by Professor Margaret Saimo-Kahwa, the main Principal Investigator in collaboration with scientists from MAK-COVAB and is the culmination of the antitick vaccine development initiative supported by H.E. Gen Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda, to produce an effective, affordable and safe antitick vaccine that will reduce acaricide use, and protect Uganda’s cattle from risk of acaricide resistant ticks. 

How does TicVac-U work?

The mechanism through which the TicVac-U vaccine works against tickborne diseases like East Coast Fever (ECF) and Babesiosis is that once vaccinated, engorged ticks from TicVac-U immunized cattle perform poorly as they do not attain full weight in detachment, which results in tick eggs with low weight thereby affecting their hatchability.

In TicVac clinical trials, eggs from ticks that were detached from vaccinated cattle failed to hatch while those tick eggs from cattle not vaccinated with TicVac-U hatched extremely well.

It is important to know that some vaccines work against some diseases by stimulating a specific immune response in an animal in order to protect them from disease. Such vaccines do this is by “tricking” the animal into thinking it is being infected, so it makes the appropriate antibodies. This means when the animal is actually exposed to the “real disease” it already has the appropriate immune response ready to attack, which should prevent, or reduce the impact of, the disease in the animal. These types of vaccines are able to do this as they contain the actual virus or bacteria responsible for the disease, but they have been modified or killed so they cannot actually cause the disease. This part of the vaccine is called the antigen. 

For some diseases, it might even be necessary for the vaccine to contain a “live” antigen. The so-called live vaccine will usually contain a strain of bacteria or virus which has been modified in the lab to actively infect and replicate in the animal, thereby stimulating a strong immune response, without actually causing the disease. Yet for others, the vaccine may contain a dead virus antigen injected in the animal yet in the same case, the aim of vaccination is to stimulate the immune system so it responds strongly to the antigen within the vaccine. 

As responsible antimicrobial usage, quite rightly, becomes a strong influencer of animal health decisions, vaccines like TicVac are increasingly playing a very important in preventing livestock diseases.

Although vaccines can, in the short-term, be an expensive purchase, an effective vaccine, administered properly, should always give you a good economic return on investment. The cost of not immunizing your cattle against ticks and tickborne diseases can be very acute.

Uganda collectively loses more than US$1.1billion annually due to ticks and tickborne diseases (1). Thats the true cost of not vaccinating cattle in Uganda alone.


[1] De la Fuente, J., Contreras, M., Kasaija, P.D., Gortazar, C., Ruiz-Fons, J.F., Mateo, R. and Kabi, F., 2019. Towards a multidisciplinary approach to improve cattle health and production in Uganda. Vaccines7(4), p.165. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-393X/7/4/165

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Dec 26, 2021