New research tackles goat plague

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Prof Dirk Pfeiffer

New vaccination strategies for eliminating peste des petits ruminants (PPR), also known as goat plague, have been developed through joint research involving veterinary and mathematical modelling experts from City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and institutes from the UK, France and Ethiopia.

The global community aims to eradicate PPR, a major burden for livestock farmers across Africa and Asia, within the next 15 years. 

According to this new research involving CityU, repeated vaccination campaigns targeting specific sub-populations acting as viral reservoirs would be the most effective way of eradicating the disease. 

The research, titled “Transmission and elimination of peste des petits ruminants in Ethiopia: Insights from a dynamic model”, was co-authored by Professor Dirk Pfeiffer, Chair Professor of One Health, and Associate Dean (Research) at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, CityU. 

The research has been published in the latest issue of the US science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Eliminating PPR currently relies heavily on mass vaccination campaigns for small ruminant populations. However, while a vaccine providing lifelong immunity exists, such campaigns are costly and logistically challenging, due in particular to the mobility of, and the lack of accessibility to, small ruminant flocks, and the lack of accurate data. 

According to Professor Pfeiffer, identifying high-risk populations and tailoring vaccination strategies for local epidemiological contexts is essential. 

“This would not only reduce the cost of PPR eradication, but also increase the chance of success by setting more achievable levels of vaccination coverage,” he said. 

“Although PPR is not a zoonotic disease, eradicating PPR is of global ‘One Health’ relevance since it would contribute to improving food security in many countries, in particular within communities that rely on sheep and goats as one of the most important sources of meat or household income,” he added.

Collaborating researchers on the paper included Dr Guillaume Fournié from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, who also led the research team; Dr Agnès Waret-Szkuta from École Nationale Vétérinaire de Toulouse, France; Dr Anton Camacho, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK; Dr Laike M. Yigezu, National Veterinary Institute, Ethiopia; and Dr François Roger, from the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD).


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