Ethiopia releases atlas to map livestock disease caused by the tsetse fly

African animal trypanosomosisis, caused by tsetse fly, is a huge problem for African livestock farmers

By Susan Chacko
Published: Tuesday 03 January 2023
Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa. Photo: iStock.

Ethiopia has released the first edition of an atlas to map a parasitic disease affecting livestock in the country and the vector behind it.

The country’s National Institute for Control and Eradication of Tsetse and Trypanosomosis (NICETT), through this initiative, aims to establish a reference for the distribution of tsetse flies and African animal trypanosomosis (AAT) in western Ethiopia.

Also read: Why zoonotic diseases are fast spreading to humans

AAT is a major livestock disease constraining sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural production. It is caused by the parasitic protozoa trypanosomes, which are transmitted by the bite of tsetse flies — an African blood-sucking fly.

The atlas, published in the journal Parasites & Vectors December 28, 2022, included data for a 10-year period, from 2010. AAT occurrence was confirmed in 86 per cent of the districts surveyed, noted the atlas.

The document also provided crucial evidence to plan surveillance and monitor control activities at the national level.

Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa. Still, high disease prevalence, inadequate feed supply, poor genetic resources and poor marketing have proved to be the main bottlenecks for the development of the livestock sector in Ethiopia.

Vector-borne diseases affecting livestock have severe impacts in Africa. Trypanosomosis is caused by parasites transmitted by tsetse flies and other blood-sucking Diptera (the scientific order in which flies are placed).

The disease is a huge problem for African livestock farmers. There is no vaccine and existing drugs are becoming less effective because of the development of resistance in parasites.

Also read: Is there an alternative to antibiotics use in livestock? Yes

At the time of developing the atlas, five regional states in Ethiopia were affected by tsetse flies. These were Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia, Gambela and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR).

Within the five regions — four river basins or hydrological systems influence tsetse distribution in the country. They are the Abay (Blue Nile)/Didesa, Baro/Akobo, Gibe/Omo and Rift Valley.

The “mean packed cell volume of positive animals was 22.4, compared to 26.1 of the negative. Trypanosoma congolense was responsible for 61.9 per cent of infections, T. vivax for 35.9 per cent and T. brucei for 1.7 per cent,” the document noted.

Four tsetse species were found to have a wide geographic distribution. The highest apparent density was reported for Glossinapallidipes (a vector) in the SNNPR.

Glossinatachinoides were the most abundant in Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambela and Oromia regions. Glossinafuscipesfuscipes and G. morsitanssubmorsitans vectors were detected at lower densities at 0.19 and 0.42, respectively.

Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa, with an estimated 70.3 million cattle, 42.9 million sheep, 52.5 million goats, 11.3 million equines and 7.3 million camels, according to an agricultural sample survey conducted during 2020-2021.

Due to the persisting challenge of tsetse and AAT, in 2013, the government of Ethiopia established the NICETT, a specialised national structure under the ministry of agriculture.

The European Commission has also financed a four-year research and innovation project — the COMBAT project (Controlling and progressively Minimising the Burden of Animal Trypanosomosis) — in Africa.

The project spans from August 2021-August 2025 and houses African countries, including South Africa, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda, Senegal, Sudan, Chad, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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