Makerere University and partners receive African Union grant to facilitate African Swine Fever Research

Associate Professor Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences, Makerere University

Through its competitive research grants the African Union has awarded a research grant of USD 1,249,988 to a consortium of scientists led by the College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University to implement a three year research project titled, ‘Developing innovative and sustainable approaches to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Africa (ASF-RESIST)’. Associate Professor Charles Masembe from the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences is the Principal Investigator. The Project will be implemented in three countries: Uganda, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom. CoNAS at Makerere University will partner with the MRC – University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (Scotland, UK); the National Veterinary Research Institute (Nigeria); Biosciences eastern and central Africa – BecA-ILRI Hub (Kenya); National Veterinary Institute, (Sweden), and the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM). The project was developed in a participatory process at a write-shop facilitated by RUFORUM under the auspices of the Platform for African-European Partnerships for Agricultural Research and Development (PAEPARD).  This project builds on incremental support from the RUFORUM Graduate Research Grant, GRG (RU 2014 GRG 088), the Mak-Sida Post-doc and the Wellcome Trust to the ASF-Uganda research team. The Project will i) determine the phenotypic and genotypic features of pigs that survive ASF outbreaks; ii) develop a community-based participatory biosecurity approach to control ASF outbreaks; and, iii) evaluate ASF rapid diagnostics for use in resource constrained settings; and iv) determine the full genome characteristics of circulating ASFV strains.

African swine fever is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease that is a major constraint to pig production and the pork industry in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, periodically killing 90–100% of affected animals; and has neither treatment nor vaccine. The disease is characterized by high fever, loss of appetite, haemorrhages in the skin and internal organs causing death in 2-10 days on average. This is a real threat to an industry that has become very attractive as a means of food, income and employment. Pigs constitute one of the small stocks that are considered “walking banks” in the local communities. Smallholder pig keeping is a good opportunity for the predominantly rural African population to raise money quickly. Pigs grow to maturity in a short time (8-12 months) and are raised successfully on food waste and other inexpensive fodder. They can be sold with relative ease, including at markets in urban areas.

The project is focused on unlocking the ASF challenge among smallholder pig farmers and enhance productivity. Efforts will be made to leverage on collaborative support from on-going efforts in the pig value chain including the community action research project at Gulu University supported by RUFORUM as well as undertakings by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

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