Development of a nanoparticle vaccine for a major killer of cattle — East Coast fever

January 12, 2018
Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund

Cattle graze in Ta Kuti village

Photo: Arne Hoel / The World Bank

The burden of East Coast fever in Africa

Almost one billion of the poorest people on the planet depend on livestock for their livelihoods, especially women, children, minorities, and landless farmers. In low and middle income countries, livestock diseases such as East Coast fever (ECF) are responsible for more than 25% of global agricultural production losses.

ECF is a leukemia-like tick-borne disease that is a leading cause of cattle mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also the most economically significant tick-borne disease in Africa — every year it causes up to 1.1 million cattle deaths and 28 million are at risk of the disease. When accounting for mortality, morbidity, loss of production, transportation, and mining and agricultural labour, the economic losses in 13 sub-Saharan countries in 2014 were estimated at US$1 billion.

Why a new ECF vaccine is needed

Although a vaccine consisting of live parasites has existed for more than 40 years, it requires technical expertise to store, transport, and administer as it must be maintained in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -80°C. These circumstances have made it expensive and inaccessible to poor farmers.

Developing an innovative solution

This highly innovative project combines current knowledge on ECF immunity with cutting edge biotechnology to formulate a vaccine that is expected to provide protection against ECF. Using protein engineering, immunomodulatory proteins will be blended with a parasite protein in a nanoparticle formulation.

The proposed vaccine is expected to generate a high level of antibody responses that will be capable of preventing ECF infection in cattle by allowing the establishment of solid and life-long T cell immunity.

Expected results

The overall expected result of this project is the development of a viable ECF vaccine candidate that can be produced commercially. The control of ECF will be significant for smallholder farmers in Africa because it will lead to better livestock health, improved food/nutrition security, and enhanced economic empowerment.

Lead institutions

This project is a collaboration between the University of Washington and the International Livestock Research Institute. The team will also collaborate with scientists from the University of Copenhagen, University of Toronto, and Atreca Inc. (a private US biotechnology company).

  • Duration: 24 months   
  • Budget: CA$1.4 million