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CTA. 2004. Trypanosomiasis. Rural Radio Resource Pack 04/03. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57382
Kwaku Agyemang, Director General of the International Trypanotolerance Centre in The Gambia.
Trypanosomiasis (Nagana) Cue: Trypanosomiasis is a disease affecting both humans and livestock in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Thirteen out of 16 countries in West Africa are affected by the disease, which is transmitted in the bite of tsetse flies. It is a deadly disease. If livestock become infected they typically suffer anaemia and loss of condition. The animals also get fevers, which re-occur every twelve days. In some cases the disease affects the brain, eyes and skin, causing nervous behaviour, discharges from the eyes and swellings under the skin. For most animals these symptoms become progressively worse until the animal dies, although this may not be for several months after the initial infection. Unfortunately, treatment for the disease is expensive, and increasingly difficult because of growing resistance of the disease to the drugs available. Many livestock keepers therefore protect their herds by simply keeping them away from tsetse infested areas. One result, however, is that agricultural and economic development in these areas is severely reduced, since livestock are not available either as a source of meat, milk or manure, or as a source of draught power and transport. In The Gambia, the International Trypano-tolerance Centre (ITC), specialises in breeds of livestock that have natural resistance to the disease. Kwaku Agyemang, Director General of the Centre spoke to Ismaila Senghore about their work. Ismaila began by asking him how trypanosomiasis has traditionally been controlled. IN: ?Trypanosomiasis traditionally has been ? OUT: ?for development in general.? DUR?N 4?57? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Kwaku Agyemang, Director General of the International Trypano-tolerance Centre in The Gambia. Transcript Agyemang Trypanosomiasis traditionally has been controlled by several ways. The first approach was to destroy the vector, which is the tsetse fly, and the most effective way in those days was to spray with chemicals, or remove the forest and vegetation, which were the habitat of the tsetse fly. But in these days of environmental sustainability, spray of chemicals and cutting down of forest is not a good approach. And so many years ago people recognised this and tried to put effort in vaccine development. It has been very difficult. This disease is more complex even than HIV. So in terms of vaccine, there isn?t much progress so far. But there have been some few chemicals which have been used as drugs to treat when the animals get sick. And you can use them also as prophylaxis. But there have been problems; there are very few drugs, and chemical resistance is developing in some of these livestock. It?s very expensive. So an option that we work on here is what we call nature?s own solution. Using and improving and multiplying animals that have natural resistance or tolerance. That is where the name ?trypanotolerance? comes from. And our centre is dedicated to make sure that this happens here, and in other places, so that other countries can benefit from these unique animal genetic resources. Senghore What do you think are the most important things that cattle rearers should do, to prevent devastating scenarios by trypanosomiasis? Agyemang Cattle breeders, - and not only cattle, small ruminants are important as well - those who are going in for the first time, should realise that they will have to get ready in areas where tsetse flies are a problem, to be able to spend a lot of money, in investment in chemical treatments, prophylaxis and so forth. If that is not feasible, or they cannot afford ? and in fact it is very expensive ? they should look at the option of using trypanotolerant livestock: animals that have innate ability to control the disease. In that way they don?t spend a lot of money, they have sustained production, and also the methods of production are environmentally friendly. Senghore Now you?ve talked about some impact in humans. How important are human risks in this case? Agyemang Yes, there was a time twenty or thirty years ago when there was an international effort to make this disease impact on humans minimal, and some success was made. But now, with the breakdown in markets and support from government and so forth, and especially in conflict areas like Angola, Mozambique, Uganda, now it is estimated that every year in Africa about 50,000 people die of sleeping sickness. Senghore Now is it that those who eat the meat of infected animals get the disease? Agyemang No, no, that is not the problem. The disease is transmitted only when an infected tsetse fly bites a person and transmits the trypanosome from its saliva into the bloodstream of the human being. Senghore How effective would you say your control programmes have been here in The Gambia, and in the countries that you work with? Agyemang Our work here, which has allowed us to increase the genetic resistance of the animals, through selective breeding, is increasing the productivity of the animals, but it is also making the animals hardier. We did a study recently and found out that for milk production alone, the work that ITC has done in The Gambia is yielding benefits to the farmers to the tune of about US$2 million every year, because of improved milk production, improved animal health, improved mortality in livestock. Senghore Now, if you were to advise anybody, or any institution within the ACP countries about running a programme like this, what would you put emphasis on? Agyemang ACP countries need to prioritise their research. In some cases there could be ACP solutions, or let?s say African solutions. Our countries should be aware of this, that sometimes solutions can be found within these countries. Sometimes a little bit of management could help them to double their production, which means more money for the family and for development in general. End of track.