Illustrative image. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Pakistan is all set to begin local production of a high-quality vaccine to eradicate the sheep and goat plague, a highly contagious animal disease.

Pakistan’s Ministry of National Food Security and Research has received a seed virus, cell line, and serum from the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development CIRAD.

A seed virus is a specific strain of a virus used as the foundation for vaccine production. The seed package, valued at Euro 25,000, was handed over to the Ministry on Friday by Farrukh Toirove, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in Pakistan. Syed Khalid Gardezi, an official at the food research ministry, thanked the FAO for their continued support and for supplying this seed virus.

This marks a significant milestone in the South Asian country’s efforts to combat Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), also known as sheep and goat plague. Pakistan has set a target of eradication of PPR by 2028.

This initiative will contribute to significant economic savings and the improvement of livestock farmers’ livelihoods. The immediate advantage of receiving this seed virus is the ability to produce a sufficient quantity of high-quality PPR vaccine locally, which reduces dependence on imported vaccines and conserves foreign exchange reserves.

“It will result in the net saving of Rs 60 billion being incurred as loss due to PPR disease every year in Pakistan,” the food security ministry said. This development will not only benefit the livestock industry but also positively impact the livelihoods of farmers.

Global impact of sheep and goat plague

With the availability of the seed virus, all provinces in Pakistan will be able to produce the PPR vaccine. To ensure the successful production and storage of the vaccine, CIRAD experts will provide training to the Pakistani team involved.

Additionally, the National Veterinary Laboratories (NVL) in Islamabad will offer training on handling the seed and cell lines as part of the ‘National PPR Control and Eradication Program’.

The fast-spreading viral animal disease PPR has had a significant impact globally, with a 30-70 percent fatality rate among infected animals. Although it does not infect humans, PPR poses a severe threat to food security, community resilience, and livelihoods.

The number of global PPR outbreaks has decreased by two-thirds in recent years, thanks to international efforts toward eradication by 2030, according to FAO data. However, the plague still affects over 66 countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, with an estimated economic impact of up to $2.1 billion annually, according to the FAO and World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH).