African horse sickness investigated in Ethiopia

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A case of African horse sickness. Photo: Gelagay Ayelet Melesse
A case of African horse sickness. Photo: Gelagay Ayelet Melesse

A researcher has identified several serotypes of the African horse sickness virus in his work in Ethiopa.

Gelagay Ayelet Melesse received a research grant at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science to investigate major viral diseases affecting Ethiopian livestock.

Melesse’s doctoral research reveals there are several serotypes of the virus causing foot-and-mouth disease and the African horse sickness virus, and several different hosts for these viruses in Ethiopia.

His study also highlights the economic repercussions of these viruses and other viral diseases in domestic livestock.

The veterinary school says his findings may contribute to improved strategies for controlling and combating the spread of such diseases and to increased self-sufficiency in food.

Livestock play an important role in Ethiopia as a livelihood both for nomads and for farmers cultivating the land. Products from livestock are the country’s second-largest export after coffee.

However, due to a number of diseases affecting domestic animals, this resource is not reaching its full potential.

A cow suffering from foot and mouth disease. Photo: Gelagay Ayelet Melesse
A cow suffering from foot and mouth disease. Photo: Gelagay Ayelet Melesse

Diseases that have an economic impacts include foot-and-mouth disease, African horse sickness, lumpy skin disease and camel pox.

Until now, there has been only limited knowledge about the real economic consequences of these diseases, their distribution, the types of virus and also the ecological and operational factors that may have a bearing on their prevalence.

Melesse’s doctoral project identified five different serotypes of the FMD virus taken from several different host animals in Ethiopia. He found that the prevalence of the foot and mouth disease virus is related to the way the animals were kept and to the extent to which livestock were in contact with wild animals.

Research on lumpy skin disease and African horse sickness showed that outbreaks occurred at the end of the rainy season (in November and December).

Melesse isolated several types of African horse sickness virus and also studied the occurrence of camel pox, which has serious repercussions in the main camel-breeding areas of Ethiopia.

The veterinary school said Melesse’s research had provided valuable information about virus types, disease distribution in relation to season and geographical region, and the economic significance and risk factors for the diseases.

Gelagay Ayelet Melesse
Gelagay Ayelet Melesse

Using his findings, vaccine-based control strategies can be implemented which may lead to the country becoming more self-sufficient in food, it said.

Melesse’s thesis is entitled “Epidemiological investigation and molecular characterization of major viral diseases of livestock: implication for disease control in Ethiopia”.

Melesse was born in Gojjam, Ethiopia, in 1972. He completed his education as a veterinary surgeon in 1996 at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Addis Ababa University and took a master degree in Tropical Microbiology in 2009 at the same university.

He has worked as a research assistant, researcher and in the field of vaccine control at the Pan African Veterinary Vaccine Centre and the National Veterinary Institute of Ethiopia.

In August 2007, he received training in fundamental molecular diagnostic techniques at Pretoria University and from October 2007 to May 2008, took part in a collaborative research project on foot-and-mouth disease in Ethiopia at the Pirbright Laboratory in England.

He has published more than 30 articles in national and international journals and attended various international scientific conferences.

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