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Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research

versión On-line ISSN 2219-0635
versión impresa ISSN 0030-2465

Onderstepoort j. vet. res. vol.76 no.1 Pretoria  2009




Trends in the control of heartwater



B.A. Allsopp

Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa




Heartwater is an economically serious tick-borne disease of ruminants caused by the intracellular bacterium Ehrlichia ruminantium. The disease has traditionally been controlled by four different approaches: controlling the tick vector by dipping, establishing endemic stability, performing immunisation by infection and treatment, and preventing the disease by regular administration of prophylactic antibiotics. The first three of these methods are subject to failure for various epidemiological reasons, and serious disease outbreaks can occur. Prophylaxis is effective, but very expensive, and the logistics are daunting when large herds of animals are involved. The development of a safe, cheap and effective vaccine is the only likely way in which heartwater can be economically controlled, and over the past 15 years three new types of experimental vaccine have been developed: inactivated, attenuated, and recombinant vaccines. These new vaccines have shown varying degrees of promise, but none is as yet sufficiently successful to be marketable. We describe the experimental products, and the various technical and biological difficulties which are being encountered, and report on ways in which new technologies are being used to improve vaccine effectiveness.



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