From January 2022 to May 2023, 165,000 cattle died
Almost 10 months since an indigenous vaccine for lumpy skin disease was released by the government, its final approval with the regulatory authorities was still pending, even as there are reports of new cases of the disease in the last two months.
In 2022, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research-National Research Centre on Equines (ICAR-NRCE) in Hisar, Haryana collaborated with ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Izatnagar, Uttar Pradesh to develop Lumpi-ProVacInd. It was India’s first (indigenous) homologous live-attenuated lumpy skin disease (LSD) vaccine made by using a local LSD virus strain from Ranchi.
The technology was released by the Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Union Animal Husbandry and Dairying Minister Parshottam Rupala on August 10, 2022.
The vaccine was commercialised to at least four vaccine manufacturers, including Biovet Pvt Ltd, Bengaluru, Indian Immunological Limited, Hyderabad, Hester Biosciences, Ahmedabad and the Institute of Veterinary Biological Products, Pune.
The test batches produced by the vaccine manufacturer(s) were again tested for sterility, potency, safety and efficacy, according to the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).
But since then, the final approval has been pending with the CDSCO and the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying.
LSD virus is a poxvirus that belongs to the same genus as sheep pox and goat pox viruses. It spreads through blood-sucking insects like mosquitoes, flies and ticks as well as through saliva and contaminated water and food.
The disease is characterised by 2-5 cm-wide nodules that appear all over the body, particularly around the head, neck, udders and genitals. The lumps open up into large, deep wounds.
The virus also causes prolonged morbidity. It also spreads quite rapidly. Within 16 months of India’s first case — reported from Odisha in 2019 — the disease had spread to 15 states. But the spread of the wave which began in April-May 2022 has been exponential, as has the mortality rate.
From January 2022 to May 2023, 165,000 cattle died.
Since the outbreak of the disease in 2019, India has been administering the goat pox vaccine. It is a heterologous vaccine that offers cross-protection (up to 60-70 per cent) for cattle against the disease. Goat pox, sheep pox and LSD belong to the same capripoxvirus genus.
Lumpi-ProVacInd is a homologous vaccine made with the same virus as the disease. Homologous live-attenuated vaccines provide better and longer immunity compared to heterologous ones, according to experts.
Kumar informed that inefficacy of the goat pox vaccine (against LSD in cattle) was witnessed in 2022 in different veterinary institutes. In a controlled experimental trial conducted by Biovet at Malur in Karnataka; in Maharashtra 1.4 million animals were vaccinated with goat pox vaccine, out of which the disease appeared in 426,000 vaccinated animals along with over 32,000 deaths; and at Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU) in Ludhiana, 217 cattle were vaccinated, out of which 66 succumbed to natural infection.
More recently, LSD has been found in cattle vaccinated with goat pox vaccine last year.
Veterinary institutes or universities in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Punjab have reported outbreaks again in April and May 2023, even in animals that were vaccinated with goat pox vaccine a few months ago.
Adrish Bhati, a veterinarian in Hanumangarh district in Rajasthan, informed that he has been seeing four to five new cases of LSD weekly since March end. “Some of the cases out of the total are those which were vaccinated. Though the symptoms are not as severe as 2022,” he said.
Cases were also on the rise in cattle that did not get vaccinated in 2022 for different reasons.
In Maharashtra, as of May 20, 2023, the number of total active cases was 3,351, according to official data.
However, experts said that the symptoms were mild and not as severe as last year. Similarly, there are media reports of an increase in cases in Uttarakhand.
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