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Development of an attenuated live heartwater vaccine for use in domestic ruminants


Heartwater is a disease of cattle, sheep, and goats that has significant economic consequences, including estimated losses of approximately US$48 million (approximately CA$62.4 million) annually in southern Africa.

The current heartwater vaccine is the live blood-based vaccine produced and marketed by Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) of South Africa. This vaccine is not farmer-friendly because it requires ultra-cold storage (-196° C), intravenous administration by veterinary health professionals, and post-vaccination treatment with tetracycline. In addition, it does not protect against most isolates circulating in the field and carries the risk of spreading other blood-borne diseases. These storage and transport requirements also make it an expensive vaccine for smallholder farmers.
In this project, OBP will optimize the processes of producing and scaling up a new live attenuated tissue culture-derived heartwater vaccine developed by the Agriculture Research Council-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute. The project also seeks to stabilize the vaccine to remove dependence on the cold chain for storage and transportation. Unlike the vaccine currently in use, this new vaccine is shown to be safe; fully protective in goats, sheep (young, old, and pregnant ewes), and Holstein Friesian cattle; and it can be administered through the intramuscular route. It is also easier to produce and has broader cross-protection.

It is expected that by the end of the project, the production process of the new heartwater vaccine will have been optimized, the vaccine registered in South Africa, and the production technology transferred to the African Union Centre for Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases in Malawi.

This project is funded through the Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund, a partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Affairs Canada, and IDRC. It represents a joint investment of CA$57 million over five years to support the development, production, and commercialization of innovative vaccines against priority livestock diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Project ID
Project Status
24 months
IDRC Officer
Victor Mbao
Total Funding
CA$ 667,070.00
South Africa
Institution Country
South Africa
Project Leader
Ben Mans
Agricultural Research Council
Institution Country
South Africa
Project Leader
Boet Weyers
Onderstepoort Biological Products Limited