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FAO calls for radical approach to ignored cattle disease

Evidence-based policies to provide insight for healthier cattle in Africa

In Africa, the disease is endemic in 26 countries and is now spreading to new countries and areas where it had been previously eliminated. Photo: @FAO

10 April 2019, Accra – With Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) posing a serious threat to cattle production in sub-Saharan Africa, FAO released a new publication, Control of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia: A policy for coordinated actions, to deliver evidence-based policies for the sound control of this devastating disease for stakeholders at all levels.

Affecting 26 countries in the region, the disease, which spreads through the air, is causing mortality, loss of milk production, and drastic weight loss in more persistent cases. Diagnostic tests and vaccines exist, but they have not been improved for several decades. Moreover, national governments are abandoning disease control strategies such as mass vaccination and strict movement restrictions due to high costs, concerns of declining impact, and growing public resistance. Therefore, current policies for control and management of CBPP require critical review and innovations.

Eran Raizman, Senior Animal Health and Production Officer, FAO said, “The lack of a coherent and achievable vision for CBPP is driving the disease’s resurgence over recent decades, and an increase in the unregulated use of antibiotics further contributes to the development of drug-resistant superbugs. Only combinations of control measures can accomplish improved disease and risk management in livestock.”

Evidence-based policies and roadmaps to inspire future CBPP control

In the newly released publication, the authors from FAO and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University propose a roadmap towards CBPP control, including the integration of vaccination, movement control, and regulation of antibiotic use. FAO and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine emphasized a three-part, time-bound approach.

The first period envisions scaling up integrated control measures to optimize the contribution of vaccination, treatment, and improving institutional arrangements for delivery and monitoring of CBPP. Throughout this period, CBPP control will expand based on the efficacy of actions. The next period includes an aggressive control phase under government coordination and regulation that seeks to suppress prevalence in endemic areas to the point of eliminating the disease. The last period considers the feasibility of complete eradication. The epidemiological status of the disease, impact of existing control programmes and availability of new tools will be significant factors in the analysis.

“This plan requires significant technical and institutional change – supported by research to identify successes from failures. The re-establishment of control requires fresh thinking backed by concerted international leadership,” added Raizman.

Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) and its impact

In Africa, the disease is endemic in 26 countries and is now spreading to new countries and areas where it had been previously eliminated. The disease cannot infect humans, but has serious implications for food security and livelihoods, with mortality in infected animals between 17 to 20 percent. Due to the reduced draught power and manure for soil fertility, there are also serious impacts on agricultural and crop production.

Without international oversight, attempted control of the disease is inflicting a considerable cost to farmers. They often invest scarce resources in the purchase of antibiotics, and some suffer restrictions on free movement, trade or increased transaction costs. In other areas, there is uncontrolled animal movement, particularly in areas with political instability and flow of internally displaced persons (IDP) with livestock. This poses an imminent risk to non-infected animals, where the disease can spread rapidly in naive cattle populations with devastating consequences.

In locations where CBPP is endemic, prevalence of infection can reach as high as 10 percent and chronic infection is common, with animals showing poor body condition and productivity over several months. However, there is considerable variation in prevalence and impact between countries and there appears to be no clear seasonal pattern of outbreaks. This could be due to variations in cattle density, herding patterns and environmental conditions.

Scott Newman, Senior Animal Health and Production Officer of FAO Africa, disclosed, “We hope this publication provides good policy-based guidance for stakeholders, and support the efforts of African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), Regional Economic Communities, national authorities, and livestock owners. Moreover, FAO’s collaboration with the African Union to develop an Africa Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Framework and FAO’s AMR collaboration with OIE and WHO aims to guide safe and efficacious use of antibiotics in the human health and agriculture sectors, including preventing resistance of superbugs in livestock. With our ongoing joint efforts, we look forward to harmonizing policy and awareness to achieve an effective CBPP disease and risk management program for livestock in Africa.”

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