Joseph Odoi & Harriet Musinguzi
A consortium of researchers from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB)-Makerere University, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya, University of Nairobi and Swedish University of Agriculture Sciences (SLU) have developed an Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) system to address Anti-microbial resistance and monitor antibiotic usage in Livestock starting with poultry industry. This innovation comes at a time when AMR is emerging as a global health concern
Antimicrobial Resistance occurs when some of the germs (bacteria, virus, or fungus) that cause infections resist the effects of the medicines used to treat them. This may lead to ‘treatment failure’, or the inability to treat the cause of the infection.
The main drivers of antimicrobial resistance include the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials; lack of access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) for both humans and animals; poor infection and disease prevention and control in health-care facilities and farms; poor access to quality, affordable medicines, vaccines and diagnostics; lack of awareness and knowledge; and lack of enforcement of legislation.
To counter this trend,a two-day Project workshop titled Management of animal diseases and antimicrobial use by information and communication technology to control antimicrobial resistance in East Africa (MAD-tech AMR project 2022-2024 ) was convened at CoVAB) by the project Co-investigator Associate Professor Lawrence Mugisha aimed at sharing progress made by the research team.
Prof. Robert Tweyongyere, the Dean School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal resources, College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB) giving his remarks.
The workshop was opened by the College Principal represented by Prof. Robert Tweyongyere, the Dean School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal resources, College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB),who in a special way welcomed the participants to Makerere University.
He noted that with support from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences effective 12th June 2020, Makerere University in collaboration with Sweden, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Kenya, and University of Nairobi, the researchers embarked on implementing the MAD-tech-AMR project that aimed at providing an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) framework for improved monitoring and control of antimicrobial use (AMU) and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in livestock in low and middle-income countries.
Prof. Robert Tweyongyere, who represented the Principal CoVAB, Prof. Frank Nobert Mwiine at the official opening of the two day engagement further revealed that antimicrobial resistance is now a leading global health and development threat thus needs urgent attention.
“Tools to monitor antimicrobial Usage are very important and that is why the MAD-tech-AMR project is necessary in this day”. One of the biggest challenge we have is data collection and storage around AMR which this project is solving . Additionally , We are yet to see the toll of microbial resistance. This research will bring out some fundamental issues given that microbial resistance is still a concept, yet to be appreciated’ he noted.
He equally thanked the project team led by Prof. Lawrence Mugisha for undertaking the project that affects every one’s livelihood.
Prof. Lawrence Mugisha, the Principal Investigator at Makerere University, in a summary update of MAD-tech-AMR project said if left unchecked by 2050, AMR may contribute to up to 10 million deaths per year with low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) like Africa being victims.
Prof. Lawrence Mugisha makes his presentation at the workshop
In Context to Uganda, Prof. Lawrence Mugisha noted that with 80% of Ugandans depending on agriculture, the cost of AMR to the national economy and its health systems is significant and thus needs urgent attention. He emphasized the importance of a multi-sectoral approach if sustainable development goals are to be achieved. He said that AMR has a great Impact on SDG1 (no poverty), SDG2 (zero hunger), SGD3 (good health and wellbeing), SDG6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), and SGD12 (responsible consumption and production). Prof. Mugisha also shared the way forward to address the AMR challenges and these were;
- Raising public awareness about AMR
- Maintenance of sanitation and hygiene
- Investing in human capital for innovative vaccines like herbal for the replacement of Antibiotic use.
As part of the study, researchers addressed the following key findings from the study;
- Antibiotics were the most used drug by livestock farmers followed by dewormers. More so respiratory related infections was the most reported case followed by digestive problems like diarrhea. The most used antibiotic by farmers was Oxytetracycline Hydrochloride and procaine.
- 2% of the farmers were female and 21.4% had attained a degree. Their mean age was 37.5 years. Most of the farmers specialized in Economics and business-related studies followed by those with no specific field of study. Majority of the farmers were funded by project owners (78.95%) and household members (16.14%). There were mainly managed by hired labor (44.56%) and household members (33.33%).
- Worms and Typhoid were reported to be the biggest threat in regards to the health status of birds.
- In terms of Management Practices, regular cleaning and disinfection were highly practiced by farmers.
- Most farmers bought drugs from VET Shops and also consulted VETs
- In regards to IT use, 97% of the farmers, and 100% of drug sellers and feed dealers have mobile phones; 69% of farmers had smart phones and were MTN and Airtel subscribers, and most too used the internet daily.
- 70% of the veterinary doctors wished to call farmers
- WhatsApp platforms and Facebook were the most commonly used online Channels
Prof. Lawrence Mugisha further emphasized that using the current ICT system developed by MAD-Tech-AMR team could favour the use of mobile phones in monitoring AMU and AMR. ‘It would also be easy to work with common telecommunication companies (MTN and Airtel) to whom farmers had already subscribed. Real-time communication with veterinary doctors, feed dealers, drug sellers, and farmers themselves would be made easy. Since 80% of the farmers do farm-related activities, so deploying an IT system is easy in monitoring AMR use, he explained.
As part of monitoring AMU and AMR, Wangoru Kihara from MAD-tech-AMR Project, Kenya shared a brief architecture of the upcoming IT application named: “Animal Disease Information System (ADIS) application developed by the Project which can link farmers to veterinary drug/pharmacy owners and veterinarians to get help in real-time.
In this Platform;
- Different users like farmers(farmers, agrovets, vets) can download the application, register and log in.
- After logging in, they can report a disease or browse disease symptoms or share drug usage details on their farms.
- Access is through smartphones, computers, laptops.
- Real-time processing of data is possible for users to visualize: agrovets- drugs sold, farms – disease history
Mr. Wangoru Kihara explains the ADIS system developed by MADTECH project
In her presentation centered on the MAD-tech-AMR project aims and objectives, Professor Susanna Sternberg Lewerin from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biomedical Sciences & Veterinary Public Health revealed that although Antibiotics are powerful medical tools that allow curing of serious infectious diseases in people and animals, it also has the ability to trigger bacteria to develop resistance to drugs thus the need to consult with professional practitioners before use.
Dr. Sussanna Sternberg making a presentation at the event.
In context to bacteria developing resistance to drugs, Dr. Henry Kajumbula from the Department of Microbiology, Makerere University College of Health Sciences noted that in 2015, a situation analysis was conducted by the Uganda National Academic Science (UNAS) and it was found that some of the most reliable antibiotics with a high safety margin and great effectiveness were found to meet a high resistance of about 40%. “The prevailing conditions of hygiene and sanitation in our health care system also drive resistance to antibiotics. Because of this situation, micro organisms become resistant to the most potent antibiotics. This situation is being recognised in the human health system because of the increase in bacterial infections which are failing to be treated” explained Dr. Kajumbula
Dr. Kajumbula making a presentation at the event.
Moving forward, the MAD-TECH-AMR project team called upon farmers, Agrovets and policy makers to make use of the Animal Disease Information System that will be rolled out soon .
During this event, participants namely farmers, agrovets, policy makers among others were trained how to use Animal Disease Information System (ADIS) specifically how to log in, report a disease or share drug usage details by the ICT expert in the workshop. Some of the key questions raised by participants include if the ADIS system will be translated into local languages and sustainability among others.
The ICT Expert Kihara demonstrates to participants how to log in and use the ADIS system
The MAD-Tech-AMR stakeholder engagement kicked off on Thursday 27th October 2022 at the Biosecurity centre in the College of Veterinary medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB) and run until Friday 28th October 2022.
More about the Project
MAD-tech-AMR is a partnership between Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden, International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya, Makerere University, Uganda, and University of Nairobi, Kenya
This project is designed to provide proof of concept, applying a framework for surveillance of AMU, diseases that trigger AMU, and perceived problems with AMR, in East African poultry production systems. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) will be coupled with veterinary epidemiology and social science methods.
The ICT framework developed by the project will be pilot-tested in selected poultry production systems in Kenya and Uganda. The framework may be expanded in the future to allow the inclusion of diagnostic tools, but the initial focus is on clinical diagnosis based on tele-consultation and evidence-based therapeutic strategies.
- Susanna Sternberg Lewerin, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden (Coordinator)
- Florence Mutua, International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya
- Lawrence Mugisha, Makerere University, Uganda
- Joshua Onono, University of Nairobi, Kenya
Stakeholders to take on Electronic Rabies Surveillance using a One Health Approach in the control of Rabies
Stakeholders in the Rabies Elimination project in Uganda (eRabies) have intensified efforts aimed at the use of electronic Rabies Surveillance using a One Health approach in the efforts towards elimination of rabies in Uganda.
A two-day workshop was convened at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB), Makerere University from 28th-29th August 2023, during which the stakeholders deliberated on a number of proposals for the best applicable surveillance tools to address One Health concerns in the effort towards the elimination of Rabies.
‘The purpose of the meeting is to hear from various actors and see what works for us, to enable us collect information and have it shared in a sustained way with One Health as a key component’ said Prof. Clovice Kankya, the Head, Department of Biosecurity, Ecosystems and Veterinary Public Health at CoVAB, at the start of the meeting held in the Centre for Biosecurity and Global Health.
Kankya noted that with one year of implementation to date, the eRabies project was progressing well drawing a lot of support from the implementing local Governments of Kyegegwa, Soroti and Kampala Capital City Authority that spearhead the community engagements and other related activities. He said the graduate fellows from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries supported by the project were also on schedule.
He said Rabies is a global challenge being a zoonotic disease affecting the entire world more so here in Africa where there is close interaction between the wild animals and the human population. The Uganda Wildlife Authority, he said, was brought on board specifically Queen Elizabeth National Park to address some of the challenges affecting people drawing from the wild animals.
The Deputy Principal CoVAB, Prof. James Acai Okwee, in his opening remarks noted through the eRabies project, Makerere University and the host CoVAB were consolidating efforts towards the control of rabies in Uganda. ‘In as much as Rabies is a killer 100%, it is also preventable 100%’ observed Prof. Acai, adding that Makerere University and CoVAB specifically have been involved in such efforts through filed activities, vaccinations and animal welfare programs aimed at the control of rabies. He said through research, such efforts were to be intensified from a scientifically informed point of view.
Prof. Sonja Hartnack, from the Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, one of the partners gave an overview of the project. She said the four-year project has seven different work packages while emphasizing that presently, the stakeholders were addressing work package one, that entails Surveillance systems and integrated bite case management. She noted that the communities were crucial in the rabies control efforts and specifically in identifying the barriers for rabies control through research interventions and the development of educational materials for awareness creation.
She made reference to the World organization for Animal Health (WOAH) recommended practices that points out that dog owners are clearly identified as one way through which the barriers to dog vaccination can be addressed in the communities and emphasized responsible dog ownership.
She said it was important to assess which vaccinations approaches are most successful in terms of vaccination coverage, whether there were static points vaccinations, or linked to institutions like Schools or other Veterinary activities or even human health related activities. She said through quantitative and qualitative research, the eRabies project was set to establish what works. She also pointed out the need to increase the laboratory capacity at regional levels as well as taking on rapid tests in the field.
Prof. Sonja Hartnack said the deliberations in the meeting were to inform the efforts towards having an integrated bite case management (IBCM) system by looking at different systems, picking out key data elements, reviewing the challenges of the existing processes for a proper One Health approach.
Dr. Andrew Kambugu, Director, Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) one of the key partners in the eRabies project extended appreciation to the Swiss Government and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) for the grant that is supporting the implementation of the activities. He referred to COVID-19, a Zoonotic disease that affected many people as having come from the contact between animals and humans. He said the model that would come out of the meeting was to be relevant to many. He emphasized the need for increased collaboration between different agencies in Africa, where he noted that many were working in silos. He affirmed that IDI was to give all relevant support needed in the eRabies project.
The deliberations in the workshop shared experiences from varied stakeholders that included the Infectious Diseases Institute experiences of Rabies Surveillance in West Nile region, the respective implementing Local Governments, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries.
Participants identified some of the challenges experienced in timely dog bites reporting that need to be addressed in the surveillance. They included late reporting by the victims, failure to capture data from the private Veterinary Medicine practitioners that handle a number of cases in the communities, omission of the wildlife Veterinarians in the reporting system and the little interaction between the Human Health practitioners and the Veterinarians, coupled with the limited data sharing avenues.
The eRabies project is implemented by Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB), Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) in collaboration with the Vetsuisse Faculties, Universities of Bern and Zurich from Switzerland. It is contributing to efforts towards elimination of Rabies by 2030.
UK-based Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) seeks collaboration with CoVAB in Aquatic Animal Health
The College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity on 8th August 2023, hosted a team from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, an executive agency for the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Dr. Richard Paley and Mr. Andrew Wokorac Joseph of the Environment and Animal Health group were in the College courtesy of Dr. John Walakira from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO). Their visit is aimed at forging collaboration and support diagnostic and research activities pertaining to aquatic animal health.
The team was welcome to the College by the Principal, Prof. Frank Nobert Mwiine, represented by the Dean, School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Resources, Prof. Robert Tweyongyere. While extending appreciation for the upcoming collaboration, the Principal noted that Uganda is one of the main producers of fisheries products in Sub-Saharan Africa and it is the second largest foreign exchange earner for Uganda. He said the interventions in the collaboration were pertinent given the declining production that is also negatively affecting national and household income and food security which is being addressed by the Government of Uganda through promotion of aquaculture.
Prof. Mwiine highlighted some of the challenges affecting aquaculture that include lack of quality feed and seed as well as technical expertise. He said although fish diseases are yet to be considered a major challenge, with the advances in aquaculture, there is bound to be frequent disease outbreaks. He said anti-microbial resistance and drug residues were inevitable because in the process of managing fish disease, antibiotics are administered. Further he pointed out the limited knowledge and skills in fish health management which falls in the docket of veterinaries but few are well equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge.
He made reference to Makerere University’s vision of innovative teaching, learning and services responsive to national and global needs, and the strategic direction of enhancing and strengthening partnerships with industry, the community through multiple collaborations with universities and other research institutions regionally and globally.
The Principal informed the team that Makerere University offers comprehensive training programs in aquaculture, fisheries production and aquatic animal health at CoVAB and the College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS). He said at CoVAB, research in aquatic animal health has expanded to cover core areas of biosecurity and ecosystem health following the one health approach. He emphasized the need for increased collaborative ties and networks with the private sector, research institutions, universities and technical agencies, working closely with the fish farmers.
He explained that at CoVAB, the two Schools synergistically offer training across the graduate and undergraduate programs. He highlighted some of the fisheries/aquaculture research projects ongoing that include Safe Fish that is investigating phages as alternatives to antibiotic use in fish management; Novel Feeds, that is developing a feed formulation for fish larvae; Bioconversion of Industrial waste products in Nile perch , Artificial Intelligence system to balance water quality and feed; Capacity Building in aquatic animal health and environmental health as well as probiotics for use on Tilapia and Nile Perch farms.
Dr. John Walakira from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) noted that there was potential for a long-term relationship between CoVAB and NARO and urged the college to identify gaps that need to be filled in future in the aquaculture industry. He said the team was in the college to establish what it can do in the industry, noting that issues of diseases are recurrent and a preserve of the veterinarians. He noted that aquaculture animal health was growing very fast with over 2.5 billion fingerlings in the region and in the process, diseases are on the increase.
He said the team from Cefas was in the college to establish what was on ground for example the graduate courses as well as training for the practitioners in the industry. He said Africa has been without aquaculture related diseases but now they are getting reported and veterinarians called to take up the challenge. Because of the rich resources in Uganda, it’s time to train practitioners, he said, and that Makerere University especially CoVAB is a focal point especially in dealing with such diseases.
Dr. Richard Paley from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquatic Science (Cefas) while briefing the meeting said Cefas is an International Centre of Excellence involved in the maintenance of the health of wild and farmed seafood to minimize loss and maximize food security. He said as a world leader in marine science and technology, Cefas collects, manages and interprets data on the aquatic environment, biodiversity and fisheries. He their Weymouth lab has over 1100 scientists dedicated to aquatic health bringing together all the necessary disciplines that among many include disease inspection, diagnosis, research and development, microbiology, virology and many more.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) designated Cefas as the WOAH Collaborating Centre for Emerging Aquatic Animal Diseases. He said their aim is to function as a global resource for health and disease research, diagnostics, pathogen detection and description, and knowledge sharing associated with aquatic animals. The meeting was attended among others by the Assoc. Prof. Jesca Nakavuma who is also undertaking research in Safe Fish that is investigating phages as alternatives to antibiotic use in fish management, as well as Veterinary medicine students.
COVAB capacity building engagement on Human Capital Development in Science, Technology, and Innovation Industrialization
The College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-security (COVAB) Human Capital Development Project held a five-day capacity building training at Esella Hotel, Kira to equip the project’s staff and protégé with knowledge and skills in product value chain industrialization.
During the workshop which ran from 24th to 28th July 2023 staff and Protégé were imparted with knowledge on commercialization of an innovative product, strategic financial management, strategic planning and management, business planning, policy formulation and management.
At the opening ceremony, the Superintendent of Industrial Value Chains Development, Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI)- Office of the President, Dr. Cosmas Mwikirize pointed out that people were the most important in the process of development.
“In the development tree, people are the most important ingredient to development. No country can be better than the quality of its human resource,” said Dr. Mwikirize, adding that the mentorship model is important given that it gives opportunity to people to develop technologies, and hence no need to look for jobs.”
He further encouraged participants to embrace Science, Technology, and Innovation because of its big contribution to national GDP. “STI is the way out, and if you want a good place to invest your money, look at your students who have good ideas and start pulling resources. Invest in your people’s ideas and you will not go wrong,” said Dr. Mwikirize.
The protégés who participated in the workshop were all spread under STI Value Chain Economies which include the engineering economy, mobility, beauty and apparel, the digital economy, Agro security and the pathogenic economy.
In his welcome remarks, the Principal for the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity, Prof. Frank Norbert Mwiine appreciated government support towards research and mentorship initiatives. “We thank the Government of Uganda for the support towards research and innovation through funding several projects, and for equipping the University with resources and laboratories for quality research,” said Prof. Mwiine.
Prof. Mwiine further emphasized the benefits of research, stating that nations need research to evolve. Further, he emphasized that research and innovation is the way through whcih the University gives back to society.
The Human Capital Development Project is championed by Dr. Claire Mack Mugasa, who is the Principal Investigator of this initiative. Dr. Mugasa highlighted the need for equipping scientists, researchers and innovators with specialized techniques which is a critical aspect in national development and industrialization.
“We have our scientists and innovators working separately and are not in touch with one another in their production lines, but with this mentorship programme, we are ensuring that the scientists have specialized skills, techniques, and knowledge that is key in industrialization,” said Dr. Mugasa, adding that, “with some amount of redirection and orientation, the scientists will be brought together in a foundry network.”
The Human Capital Development Initiative is funded by the Government of Uganda through Science, Technology, and Innovation-Office of the President.
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