Stemming the Tide of Animal Disease
AFRICA is plagued by scores of animal diseases. Ebbing and flowing with the seasons, micro organisms are never totally absent from the grazing herds of cattle, sheep, goats and horses which are the economic lifeblood of many nations.
Many of these micro organisms - some potentially lethal - are unique to Africa.
It is a problem which Africa is being forced to tackle with its own resources.
But on our continent, only one organisation - Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) - possesses the capability, the skills and scientific know-how to combat these threats through the large-scale production of specialised animal vaccines.
OBP produces millions of doses per year to control as many as 50 different diseases and is an acknowledged world leader in the battle against disease.
Agriculture’s contribution to South Africa’s economy is huge - both in terms of the number of people it employs, its capacity to generate economic development and empowerment, and in its contribution to the national economy.
The role of OBP in fighting animal diseases is not limited to our own national boundaries. Its products - and the skills of its veterinary scientists - are exported widely.
Indeed its products are a major source of help for most of Africa, the Middle East and Mediterranean countries.
World Class Vaccines
“Reaching out - to Africa, and the world…”
Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) plays a role of prime strategic importance to our nation’s economy. Its work - to produce world-class vaccines to control diseases among commercial livestock herds - goes to the heart of the development of a healthy agricultural industry here, and on the wider African continent.
It is a responsibility unique in Africa. A daunting assignment, too, for the names of these scourges a signal of potential disaster to farmers and breeders: Rift Valley fever…bluetongue disease…ephemeral fever… lumpy skin disease…anthrax…African horse sickness… and many others.
Despite these threats, we are winning the battle, thanks to the skills and dedication of scientists, technicians and specialist workers at OBP. We are jointly engaged on a new nation-building enterprise in pursuit of the African Renaissance.
South Africa presents a unique challenge to livestock owners - running commercial animal production - in the presence of indigenous diseases. Vaccines produced by OBP make this possible.
This is equally true of the thoroughbred horse industry which has also benefited from the development of African horse sickness vaccine.
The concern of OBP goes far beyond harnessing science to perfect and produce vaccines, however critically important this may be.
OBP is focused on the promotion of good husbandry in livestock farming, on the education and technical support of established and emerging farmers, and on the building of healthy herds - one of the main foundations of our nation’s economy.
Nor is OBP’s success limited to South Africa. Our influence and scientific and technical backup are far-reaching, and many of our products are uniquely designed to combat livestock diseases elsewhere in Africa, the Middle East, Mediterranean countries and South America.
OBP is a commercial as well as a scientific enterprise. Since its corporatisation during the year 2000 it has been progressively re-organised according to established business formulas, emerging now as a highly successful amalgam of knowledge, where commercial know-how is applied to exploit scientific excellence.
Vaccination the only way
Where herds may safely graze.
There are a variety of indigenous and exotic diseases which commonly attack livestock in South Africa, and vaccination is the only way in which many of them can be controlled. For some diseases, there are multiple strains which makes the task of combating them more difficult. Some diseases are transferred from animal to animal and are thus easier to control.
Rinderpest was such a disease. Others, like African horse sickness (AHS), are transmitted by insects and are thus more difficult to control. The list is daunting. Rift Valley Fever, bluetongue disease, lumpy skin disease and ephemeral fever are examples of diseases which require the application of viral vaccines for their prevention. Anthrax, Botulism and black-quarter are typical bacterial diseases requiring vaccine for prevention.
The Race against Disease
Winning the animal disease arms race
Disease not only kills or stunts animals, it can also destroy a fragile farm economy.
Many millions of doses of a wide variety of vaccines are manufactured every year by Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) as weapons in the ongoing battle against animal diseases.
Not only are OBP’s vaccines being harnessed in the war against animal disease. The involvement of OBP’s veterinary scientists is also in demand, particularly in Africa, where their knowledge of African animal diseases and their treatment is unrivalled.
A typical example of the beneficial effect of OBP’s involvement in Africa has been the call from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for advice on the control of the damaging economic effects of Rift Valley fever among sheep and goats in the Horn of Africa.
At an international conference on the problem, OBP was asked to contribute expertise on the use of Rift Valley vaccine to control the disease.
Closer to home, experiments at OBP have seen encouraging progress in the development of a new and improved vaccine against the disease African horse sickness, which despite the development of safeguards and immunisation programmes remains a constant threat to farmers, breeders and owners.
These are just two examples demonstrating how the knowledge of South African scientists and OBP’s vaccines are winning the “arms race” against diseases which not only maim or kill animals, but can destroy a nation’s economy.
Serving the World
Serving Africa and the World
Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) was born out of catastrophe.
The rinderpest cattle pandemic, which more than 100 years ago devastated a young nation’s economy was the worst animal disease disaster the country has known - before or since.
That rinderpest has never returned is a tribute to the work of South African veterinary scientists and workers of another age.
Today, their successors have other damaging or potentially lethal diseases to conquer as OBP takes its place as a scientific path-finder in its mission to serve Africa - and the world.