21 January 2011 - Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes periodic severe epidemics, principally involving ruminant animals (sheep, cattle and goats). RVF can also be transmitted to humans causing a potentially fatal disease. In recognition of the economic and social impacts this viral zoonotic disease has on animal and human populations in developing countries, the development of RVF vaccines have emerged as a priority to national and international health agencies.
This week, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hosted an international workshop on “Rift Valley Fever Vaccine Development, Progress and Constraints” in Rome, Italy, that gathered a good number of the most respected scientists involved in RVF research around the world. The workshop participants covered a wide range of topics in this three-day event; such as:
The experience with, and evolution of, RVF in South Africa and Egypt, followed by the positions of the European Commission and the U.S. on RVF along with the complementary views of industry and non-governmental organization representatives. This was brought into perspective by a commentary on the strategy for the prevention and control of RVF and the expectations from vaccines usage.
This day was in general devoted to research and development, with the following themes/topics addressed: Development of live attenuated RVF vaccines for animal use; an update on Clone 13 vaccination trials; RVF vaccine and DIVA Assay efforts; two presentations related to Capripoxvirus; a recombinant sheep pox virus vaccine; DNA and viral-vectored vaccines for RVF; RVF immunity provided by a paramyxovirus vaccine vector; the protective efficacy of several experimental and commercial vaccines; transcriptionally active VLPs of RVF virus, among others.
The use of a primate model to test RVF vaccine efficacy was presented, followed by wrap-up commentary on the future, constraints and opportunities on the current status of RVF vaccine developments. This day included a general discussion and the drafting plus agreement of workshop recommendations.
Overall, this international workshop explored the possibilities to ensure or facilitate pre-clinical and first-stage clinical development of promising experimental vaccines, including harmonization or equivalency in assessing safety and field trials; as well as exploring the requirements for the national and international registration of new RVF vaccines, including possible emergency RVF vaccines.
For its part, the Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) of the FAO strives to assist member countries to take full advantage of the contribution the rapidly growing and transforming livestock sector can make towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).