The Government of India has developed a vaccine for the Lumpy Disease in cattle and has expressed confidence that it would be available in the markets soon.
The development of the Lumpy Disease vaccine comes at a time when several thousands of cattle have been killed by the disease across several Indian states.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the government body under which the vaccine has been made, has claimed that it's 100 per cent effective. Until now, goat and sheep pox vaccines were being administered to cattle to safeguard against Lumpy Disease, which were only 60-70 per cent effective.
Here we explain what's Lumpy Disease, how the vaccine against it has been developed and how it works, and how Lumpy Disease has affected cattle across India.
What's Lumpy Disease, how it affects cattle?
Lumpy Disease is a viral disease which spreads through bites of insects such as some types of flies, mosquitoes, and ticks, according to European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
"It causes fever, nodules on the skin and can also lead to death, especially in animals that that have not previously been exposed to the virus," notes EFSA.
The Lumpy Disease first came to India in 2019, according to a press release by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
Outlook earlier reported the Animal Husbandry Department as saying that the disease, which originated in Africa, came to India this year via Pakistan in April. Since then, several thousands of cattle have died across several states after developing lumps on their bodies after contracting the virus.
The ICAR's Lumpy Disease vaccine
The ICAR's National Equine Research Center (NERC) in Haryana's Hisar has developed the Lumpy Disease vaccine named Lumpi-ProVac Ind in collaboration with the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRE) in Uttar Pradesh's Bareilly.
The development of the vaccine began in 2019 and the successful development was announced in August in the midst of a nationwide outbreak of the disease.
Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar has directed the concerned officials to provide the Lumpy Disease vaccine in large numbers at the earliest for relief to the cattle, said the Union Agriculture Ministry in a press release. It further quoted Tomar as saying that there are 30 crore livestock in the country and considering the plight of mute animals, all possible measures should be taken to provide them relief at the earliest.
The Indian Express reported that Lumpi-ProVac Ind is is a live attenuated vaccine, similar to the vaccines against tuberculosis (TB), measles, mumps and rubella. These kinds of vaccines offer stronger and long-lasting protection.
"Live vaccines use a weakened (or attenuated) form of the germ that causes a disease. Because these vaccines are so similar to the natural infection that they help prevent, they create a strong and long-lasting immune response. Inactivated vaccines use the killed version of the germ that causes a disease. Inactivated vaccines usually don’t provide immunity (protection) that’s as strong as live vaccines," says US Department of Health & Human Services.
Naveen Kumar, Principal scientist at NRCE, told The Express that NRCE collected skin samples of infected cattle in 2019 and isolated the virus in early-2020. Then a process called 'culturing' was carried out for 17 months, the purpose of which was to weaken the disease-carrying capacity of the virus with each culturing round.
Tests in mice and rabbits began after the 50th round of culturing and trials in cattle began in April this year. Trials so far have shown a 100 per cent effectiveness.
How soon will Lumpy Disease vaccine be available?
While the government has said it's confident the Lumpy Disease vaccine would be available soon in the market, no timeline is available and it is expected that it would take some time.
The vaccine has only been developed as of now and no contract has yet been drawn with a company that would produce it at scale to bring it in the market. Three companies have, however, expressed interest in producing the vaccine, according to a report.
"Agrinnovate India, which is the commercialisation arm for products and technologies developed by our institutes, issued the expression of interest document last week. Three companies have already shown interest," said Bhupendra Nath Tripathi, Deputy Director-General (Animal Sciences) of ICAR, to The Express.
As of now, goat and sheep pox vaccines are being administered as Lumpy Disease belongs to the same family of viruses and these two vaccines offer some degree of protection against Lumpy Disease.
Lumpy Disease outbreak in India
The current Lumpy Disease outbreak is spread over 12 Indian states and Union territories, infecting lakhs of animals and killing several thousands.
Around 11.21 lakh cattle have been infected and caused 49,628 have died so far, according to official data available till August-end.
Cases have been reported in The virus has been reported in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Goa, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.