Harnessing higher education institutions’ capabilities in controlling trans-boundary animal diseases at the livestock-wildlife interface: The case for African swine fever in Uganda
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Uganda is the third largest pig producing country in Africa. However the pig industry in Uganda is currently threatened by African swine fever virus (ASFV) disease, which is a fatal, contagious viral haemorrhagic disease of domestic pigs, causing up to 100% mortality, and the disease has neither vaccine nor treatment. Harnessing the technological, research potential and community outreach strategies, Makerere University in partnership with government agencies, is using a community participatory epidemiology and molecular characterization approach to develop community-derived control strategies and genetic characteristics of the ASF virus. Through this effort the effectiveness of available molecular ASF diagnostic approaches and home ranges of domestic and wild pigs are being investigated. Seventy seven blood samples were collected from pigs during reported ASF outbreaks in selected pig farms in Uganda. The samples were analysed using a variety of molecular diagnostic approaches available at the molecular genetics laboratory at Makerere University. Preliminary results indicate that the samples tested positive for ASFV. In addition tracking collars (GPS/GSM) were used to monitor the movement patterns of free-ranging domestic pigs and wild pigs. Domestic pigs were mostly active during the nights, early mornings and in the evening. The bush pigs were active from the evening and throughout the night wandering between game reserves and farmlands. There was an overlap between free-ranging domestic pigs and bush pig activity times and this might be a contributing factor to the ASFV disease epidemics. The study involves training two MSc and four undergraduate students. It is anticipated that the trained students will add to the pool of home-grown scientists that can contribute to disease diagnostics prevention and control.