File picture: Matthew Jordaan / African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Matthew Jordaan / African News Agency (ANA)

Vaccine created at UCT to prevent African horse sickness

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Nov 23, 2018

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Cape Town – Researchers at UCT’s Biopharming Research Institute (BRU) have created a vaccine candidate to help prevent a highly infectious and deadly disease, African horse sickness (AHS), from affecting tobacco plants.

The devastating disease is prevalent in Africa, with up to 90% of infected horses dying in some outbreaks.

AHS disease of horses is transmitted by insect bites. The commercial vaccine known as a live-attenuated vaccine remains effective but carries some risks.

Professor Ed Rybicki, director of the BRU, said the new vaccine candidate was extremely immunogenic.

“It also produces neutralising antibodies when administered to healthy horses. That means that the vaccine works really well in initial tests, but needs to be tested against an actual outbreak of AHS before it can be sold,” Rybicki said. 

Last month, horse owners in the province were urged to vaccinate their animals as October marked the last month of the African horse sickness vaccination season within the AHS-controlled area.

The vaccinations are controlled in the AHS protection, surveillance and free zones of the province. Vaccination is compulsory in the African horse sickness protection zone.

However, these vaccinations can only take place between June 1 and October 31 each year. 

Only registered African horse sickness vaccines may be used. It is illegal to use an unregistered vaccine.

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