by Deon Saayman
At the recent SAMGA congress, heartwater was once again listed as a cause of grave concern to Angora goat producers, many of whom are of the opinion that the relevant authorities are not serious enough about this problem.
For many years, Alf Johnson from Albany has been following the progress made on heartwater research. The company Onderstepoort Biological Products was believed to be in the process of developing a new vaccine based on the research of Florida University. However, it has now become clear that this research has not been very successful thus far, as can be seen from the following brief summary:
- Present vaccination is an “infection and treatment”-type immunisation that makes use of a blood vaccine – the only registered vaccine in the country (live, virulent) which protects against most (not all) South African isolates – unfortunately only one of them from the Eastern Cape!
- Attenuated vaccine (live, not virulent) is highly promising, but not yet registered.
- Inactivated vaccine (dead)
- Sub-unit vaccine (molecular)
Onderstepoort regards the attenuated vaccine as the way forward and believes – despite the fact that the last research on it rendered mixed results – that this should replace the blood vaccine. This possibility has been substantially researched (without any mohair industry funding), but field trials are needed to continue studying the vaccine results.
Mohair South Africa (MSA) and Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (OVI) reached an agreement regarding (and MSA’s Board of Directors approved funding for) further heartwater research focusing specifically on Angora goats. MSA and OVI signed the research agreement at the recent Albany Mohair Growers Day at Grahamstown. Prof. Abdalla Latif will head up this research, which is envisaged to be for a three-year period, to include on-farm trials, and to focus on areas where heartwater is prevalent, and on developing an intra-muscular (attenuated) vaccine as well as storage methods relating to such vaccines (including at which temperatures such vaccines can be stored and transported).
An affordable and practical vaccine would go a very long way in helping producers manage this fast-spreading and threatening disease.