Frequently Asked Questions
TicVac-U® is a commercial anti-tick vaccine developed in Uganda, in an effort to address the challenge of ticks and tick-borne diseases affecting livestock in the country. The tick vaccine was developed using vaccine candidate proteins extracted from local Ugandan ticks which have been exploited to produce antigens that can effectively immunize cattle against diseases such as East Coast Fever, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and others. Ticvac-u was developed by Professor Margaret Saimo-Kahwa, the main Principle Investigator (PI), in collaboration with scientists from MAK-COVAB, and it is the culmination of the Anti-Tick Vaccine Development Initiative financed and supported by H.E. Gen. Y.K Museveni, as part of a national effort to produce an effective, affordable and safe anti-tick vaccine that will protect Ugandas cattle from tick-borne diseases like East Coast Fever.
There are three major tick-borne diseases that affect cattle productivity in Uganda; East Coast fever (Amakebe), Babesiosis, and Anaplasmosis. TicVac-U® is currently effective against all three but with varying efficacy. In clinical trials against the two most common Tick-Borne Diseases in Uganda, the overall efficacy of TicVac-U vaccine candidate proteins for the R. appendiculatus vector- the brown ear adult ticks responsible for transmitting East Coast Fever (ECF), was 86%. For R. decoloratus, which is the most common tick species that transmit Bovine babesiosis tick-borne disease in Uganda, efficacy was 53%.
Field trials show that TicVac-U® is currently most efficacious against East Coast Fever (ECF) and Babesiosis, the two most prevalent and economically important tick-borne diseases affecting Ugandas cattle population. In the most current clinical trials, the overall efficacy of the TicVac-U vaccine serum was 86% for R. appendiculatus - the brown ear adult ticks responsible for transmitting East Coast Fever (ECF) and 53% for R. decoloratus, the tick species that transmit Babesiosis. Efficacy tests on Anaplasmosis are still ongoing. Outside TicVac-U, there are currently no vaccines for Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis.
Theileriosis, also known as East Coast Fever, is a cattle disease whose causative agent is a protozoan parasite known as Theileria parva. The East Coast Fever parasite is transmitted by the R. appendiculatus tick vector (Brown Ear Ticks) found mostly in Africa. Once the Brown Ear Tick attaches itself to cattle and starts to feed, it releases the Theileria parva parasites through saliva, from where they proceed to invade the lymphatic system of the host cattle, multiplying numerous times before interfering with the cattles immunity. Symptoms include fever and enlarged lymph nodes near the tick bites, which is often around the ears of the cattle, which swell (amakebe). ECF mortality can be up to 100% especially for non-native cattle. ECF is the leading killer of Ugandas indigenous calves and practically kills all infected untreated herds of exotic cattle and their crossbreeds, leading to very high morbidity and mortality rates among exotic breeds, cross-breeds and even increasingly on local breeds raised in a tick-free environment. Its why its known as the tick-borne malaria of catttle.
Yes it does. For a longtime, the best way to prevent East Coast Fever in Uganda was mostly through restriction of cattle movement, use of antibiotics, vector control and chemical treatment through acaricide use. However, these methods have recently had relatively little success in eliminating East Coast Fever in Uganda and East Africa for varying reasons ranging from cultural, and economic to the recent development of tick resistance to acaricide treatments due to overuse. East Coast Fever tick-borne disease has for the last three decades been vaccinated against using imported vaccines that are very expensive, costs ten times more than TicVac-U and many are labour-intensive. Many also require a rigorous nitrogen cold chain to deliver and administer e.g. Muguga Cocktail. However, with the recent initiative to develop a local anti-tick vaccine in Uganda bearing the fruits of an effective vaccine for East Coast Fever for the first time, Ugandan livestock farmers finally have an appropriate immunogenic response to the problem of tick control through vaccination. TicVac-U®, Uganda’s first tick vaccine developed to protect Uganda’s cattle from East Coast Fever.
TicVac-U® is still undergoing field trials in order to ascertain the length of time it can protect cattle, against common tick-borne diseases such as East Coast Fever and many others. For more information or updates about the on-going field trials, please email us.
Bovine babesiosis, also known as redwater fever, is a cattle disease whose main causative agent in Uganda is a protozoan parasite known as Babesia bigemina. It is transmitted by the R. decoloratus tick vector (host of the parasite), which is widely present in Uganda and other tropical regions. Babesia bigemina parasites in the ticks salivary glands are deposited in the skin of catttle hosts during the tick's blood meal from where they proceed to invade the erythrocytes of the host cattle, multiplying asexually once inside bovine red blood cells, before interfering with the cattle’s immune response. Common symptoms of Babesiosis in cattle include fever, anaemia (via direct red blood cell injury), and red urine (due to intravascular hemolysis). Overall, bovine babesiosis continues to cause a serious burden to livestock farming because its one of a few tick-borne diseases that remains poorly controlled not just in Africa but globally across many regions of world. This is in no small part due to the ability of Babesia parasites to evade the hosts immune response, hence causing acute and persistent infections to cattle. Recently, important progress has been made by Ugandan scientists working on an anti-tick vaccine which has managed to achieve efficacious and effective control of this important disease and improving livestock health in affected regions of Africa.
Yes. While TicVac-U® is still undergoing field trials at the moment, the latest data from these farm trials show that the efficacy of the vaccine candidate against Babesiosis currently stands at 53%. Additional efforts to improve efficacy are part of the field trials.
Yes. The cost of not immunizing your cattle against ticks and tick-borne diseases can be very acute. Uganda loses more than US$1.1billion annually due to ticks and tick-borne diseases. East Coast Fever (ECF) alone kills approximately 30% of the annual calf-crop of Uganda’s indigenous cattle. Worse, it practically kills all infected untreated herds of exotic cattle and their crossbreeds in Uganda, leading to very high morbidity and mortality, particularly among exotic breeds, cross-breeds and even increasingly on local breeds raised in a tick-free environment. Its thus critical that Ugandans immunize not just their exotic cattle breeds and crossbreeds, which are preferred for improvement of dairy production especially in southwestern and central Uganda but increasingly, even local breeds raised in tick free environments now need immunization. The cost of not immunizing your cattle against ticks and tick-borne diseases can be very acute. Research shows Uganda alone loses more than US$1.1billion annually due to ticks and tick-borne diseases. Ticks and tick-borne diseases are responsible for acute significant economic losses to Ugandan farmers through debility, direct mortality, morbidity, loss of milk, and control costs in purchase of acaricides, chemotherapy and vaccination. The issue of acaricides is especially very pressing for the TicVac-U vaccination uptake program. Unfortunately, there has been a growing and fast spreading tick resistance to acaricides among cattle herds in Uganda, which continually prevents our communities and the country from attaining optimal production and productivity essential for socio-economic transformation through the country’s animal resources-based industry (ARI). Moreover, the coping methods adopted by Ugandan farmers experiencing acaricide failure, such as increasing acaricide concentration, applying acaricides more frequently and admixing acaricides, has further accelerated resistance, depleting farmer incomes and reinforcing poverty in the country. TicVac-U is an effective, affordable and safe anti-tick vaccine that will reduce acaricide use, and protect Uganda’s cattle from risk of acaricide resistant ticks.
The mechanism through which TicVac-U vaccine works against tick-borne diseases like East Coast Fever (ECF), Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis is that once vaccinated, engorged ticks from TicVac-U immunized cattle either die or perform poorly, including failure to attain full weight upon detachment, which results in tick eggs with low weight hence affecting their hatchability. The most important tick species from different parts of Uganda were used to test vaccine efficacy and effectiveness. During clinical trials, most ticks either died off after ingesting anti-bodies induced by the vaccine or had reduced fertility, egg laying capacity and hatchability.