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PRESS RELEASE – Groundbreaking Malignant Catarrhal Fever vaccine technology heading to South Africa

Moredun Research Institute has signed an agreement with Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) in South Africa to license its bovine Malignant Catarrhal Fever (MCF) vaccine. This agreement will lead to the final development, registration, and production of the vaccine against MCF in South Africa.

MCF, known as Snotsiekte in SA, is a fatal viral disease of cattle that is predominantly transmitted by wildebeest and is notifiable in South Africa. This disease is a serious problem for cattle across much of eastern and southern Africa, wherever wildebeest come into contact with cattle

Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, Scientific Director Moredun Research Institute said:

“Moredun Research Institute is committed to providing innovative vaccines for common endemic diseases of livestock, wherever they occur. The vaccine for MCF is a world first and it is very much hoped that it will reduce disease in cattle and improve the livelihoods of farmers across affected parts of Africa”.

Dr Baptiste Dungu, director of OBP, said:

“OBP will work with partners in the South African livestock industry to diligently further develop and successfully improve the technologies, with the hopes of registering and launching the Snotsiekte vaccine in South Africa. This is a scoop for OBP as there is currently no other BMC vaccine available, so it could be made available to other African countries where the disease causes problems”.

Dr George Russell, Principal Scientist at Moredun Research Institute said:

“We have been working on a protective vaccine for bovine malignant catarrhal fever for more than fifteen years and following successful experimental and field trials of the vaccine in the UK, Kenya and South Africa, Moredun is delighted to support this partnership with OBP to further develop the vaccine for use in Africa”.

Dr Sello Maboe, veterinarian and Technical manager at OBP, said:

“There is currently no effective treatment known for the disease, and while cattle movement away from wildebeest during high-risk periods helps, having a vaccine will help add a layer of protection to cattle herds, especially where movement of animals may not be practical. The availability of an effective vaccine will therefore be a big milestone for food security in the control of this devastating disease that has become a serious problem in the cattle farming sector in South Africa. This will also help promote a healthy interface between cattle and game farming into the future, recognising the contribution each sector brings to the country’s agricultural economy”.

Dr Peter Oberem, South African veterinarian and game farmer said:

“It is a virus carried specifically by healthy wildebeest. When the wildebeest become stressed, due to calving or weaning, the immunity is suppressed and they shed the snotsiekte virus from the respiratory tract. Cattle within a vicinity of a kilometre of these shedding wildebeest will begin to show symptoms, a month or more after exposure”.

Very few affected cattle survive MCF, with thousands of cattle dying annually in SA, causing tremendous production losses and emotional turmoil for affected cattle farmers due to the severity of the clinical disease. Significantly, there is currently no other vaccine in the world for MCF/Snotsiekte; this will be the first vaccine registered for the disease globally, and it is hoped to benefit other countries on the continent facing a similar challenge.


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