Pioneering Dairy Self-Sufficiency in Nigeria: The Scientific Crusade Against Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Dan PetersUncategorized Leave a Comment

Nigeria stands at a critical juncture in its agricultural evolution, with the imperative to bolster its dairy sector’s self-sufficiency mirroring the success of its burgeoning poultry industry. The analogy is not incidental; the poultry sector’s expansion serves as a beacon signaling the potential for similar triumphs in dairy. Yet, a shadow looms over this promising landscape—the specter of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), an affliction whose highly infectious nature poses a formidable barrier to progress.

The project INV-005230, a cornerstone initiative of Arpexas with National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), was conceived to address this very challenge. Its genesis can be traced back to a prior SEBI-funded survey that identified FMD as a critical deterrent to livestock productivity in Nigeria. Aiming to establish a fill-finish vaccine production pipeline within Nigeria’s borders, this project represents a significant public-private partnership, including an Egyptian vaccine manufacturer and other international stakeholders.

Spanning initially over three years from October 2020 to September 2023, with a subsequent six-month extension, the initiative has navigated the turbulent waters of the COVID-19 pandemic, corporate acquisitions, and the intricacies of international permits and partner alignments.

FMD’s grip on Nigeria is characterised by the prevalence of several serotypes, with types A, O, and SAT2 dominating the landscape, and a minor presence of SAT1. The World Reference Laboratory at Pirbright, UK has also been lending its expertise to the NVRI for vaccine matching, laboratory enhancement, and ensuring the quality of the vaccines.

The fill-finish process is a two-pronged approach. Initially, the main manufacturer undertakes the cultivation of specific antigens to generate an antigen bulk. This bulk is then transported to NVRI, where it undergoes formulation and filling. The logistics of this process included equipping the NVRI laboratory with essential equipment and facilitating knowledge transfer through a training visit for the NVRI team to the Egyptian facility.

Despite the best-laid plans, the project faced delays due to the pandemic, corporate acquisitions, regulatory hurdles, and the challenges of synchronising the objectives and methodologies across the partnership. As an interim solution, ‘white label’ vaccines were imported for quality control, rebranding, and to catalyse the market through distribution and sales. The selection of suitable antigen serotypes was meticulously deliberated, culminating in the choice of a trivalent vaccine combination.

Concurrently, a market survey revealed a need for enhanced farmer education on FMD and its vaccination, a knowledge gap further reflected in the state of agro-vet shops who faced refrigeration challenges, sporadic vaccine availability, and prohibitive costs.

A pivotal meeting at the Pirbright Institute in December 2022, with NVRI representatives and stakeholders, underscored the necessity for a program recalibration. The outcome was the segmentation of the remaining project timeline into three additional work packages, with prior efforts categorised as Work Package 1.

Work Package 2 materialised as a comprehensive workshop in Abuja, where a plethora of stakeholders convened to discuss and invigorate the fight against FMD, reaffirming the crucial role of vaccination and the value of a PPP model in vaccine development and manufacturing. As the project progresses, Work Packages 3 and 4—focusing on advanced training in virus neutralisation testing and further QC testing of the finished vaccine—remain in motion.

The Abuja workshop, a great success, has sown the seeds of enthusiasm and recognition for FMD control within Nigeria. The country is now poised at a seminal point, with Work Packages 3 and 4 underway, beginning a new era in disease control and agricultural resilience. This project not only stands to elevate Nigeria’s dairy sector but also symbolises a broader commitment to food security and economic stability in the region, setting a precedent for others to emulate.

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