Multivalent inactivated Vaccine against Heartwater in Africa

Project consortium and fund

  • CIRAD (France), coordinator, Philippe Holzmuller (PI):
  • CIRDES (Burkina Faso) (Abel Biguezoton: and INERA (Burkina Faso) (Adama Kabore:, sub-contracting EPAC (Benin) and NCoSL (Niger) for regional studies
  • ARC-OVI (South Africa) (Alri Pretorius: and University of Pretoria (South Africa) (Luis Neves:
  • IBET (Portugal) (Paula Marques-Alves:

Thematic and geographic area of the project:    

  • Sustainable food security
  • Animal sciences
  • Pest and disease control
  • Rural development and agricultural economy

The MuVHA project aims at providing an efficient multivalent inactivated vaccine against heartwater to improve animal health of ruminants, particularly small ruminants that are important for local economy in Africa. The development, acceptance and use of this new vaccine will not only participate in improving knowledge in Animal sciences and in targeting disease control, but will also bring new insights in sustainable food security as well as rural development and agricultural economy.

Project’s summary/abstract:                    

Heartwater, caused by Ehrlichia ruminantium (ER) constitute a major threat to ruminant production in Africa, affecting mainly small ruminants. Although a commercial vaccine is available, it presents so many drawbacks that its use is limited. An efficient, cost-effective and safe vaccine against heartwater to alleviate poverty of smallholder farmers and contribute to a sustainable agriculture in Africa is needed. The inactivated vaccine constitutes the most advanced experimental vaccine against heartwater. The main drawback of any experimental vaccine is the high antigenic diversity of ER strains, limiting its efficacy under field conditions. Our consortium composed of 2 European and 4 African partners propose to tackle this limitation by including a cocktail of strains of different regional genotypes newly isolated within the project. The genetic diversity of ER strains from Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and South Africa, will be analyzed and ER strains will be isolated from West African and Southern Africa countries to allow the design of regional vaccines. The efficacy of the inactivated vaccines will be improved by including several ER strains selected depending on their genotypes. The vaccines will be tested in field conditions in Burkina Faso and South Africa, with a new promising oil adjuvant and with a single injection, and protective biomarkers will be identified to minimize the need for challenges after any new vaccine trials. Process of production of improved vaccine formulations at industrial level will be available at the end of the project. The current project will also allow increasing regional heartwater diagnostic and research capacities. Special efforts will be done to share the research products with stakeholders such as farmers and local manufacturers.

Project’s main objective(s):                             

The main objective of the MuVHA project is to prove the ability to define and to develop an efficient inactivated vaccine against HW, adapted to a specific geographical region and based on a cocktail of ER strains, easy to produce by regional manufacturers and easy to use by veterinary services and farmers.

Scientific objectives are:

  1. evaluate the efficacy of the inactivated regional cocktail vaccine in field trials both in Western and Southern Africa after characterization of ER genetic diversity and isolation of current main regional strains
  2. identify and validate biomarkers associated to protection and/or vaccination and
  3. design a rapid test to differentiate vaccinated/protected animals from naïve animals.

The novelty relies on the definition of the multivalent inactivated vaccine targeting the regional ER strains together with the identification of vaccination efficiency markers and the promotion of regional manufacturing with regular updating of the vaccine.

Theory of Change and Impact Pathway

Summary ToC with assumptions                         

The main objective of the MuVHA project is to obtain a high-quality, heat-stable, affordable multivalent inactivated vaccine against heartwater (HW), transferable to partner countries for a facilitated mass use, taking into account the specific contexts of the targeted regions of Africa. The project integrates research and development activities to set up and validate the multivalent vaccine, together with capacity building and communication activities to ensure both a sustainable local expertise on the control of HW and the adoption of the vaccine by farmers for widespread use. Current barriers to the use of the vaccine against heartwater (cold chain, infectious risk, …) are integrated into the theory of change of the project with the definition of standardized methods of production and quality control, all taking into account farmers’ expectations.

Expected outcomes and impact:                          

Please mention the most expected outcomes of the project (e.g., the changes in behaviour, relationships, actions and activities of stakeholders as a result of the sharing and uptake of research.) and the contribution to impact the project aims at (change in economic, environmental or social conditions)

The context-adapted expected outcomes of the MuVHA project are:

  • Strengthened capacity of regional partners for Ehrlichia ruminantium (ER) diagnostic and research through the creation of an experts network shared between South and West Africa and Europe;
  • Transdisciplinary communication strategy and capacity building (scientists and students, farmers associations, regional vaccine manufacturers, policy makers, …) to achieve both scientific and technical knowledge on the vaccine production and adoption of its use;
  • Definition of ER current genetic diversity in West and South Africa and isolation of up to date ER strains to be targeted by the vaccine;
  • Establishment of standardised protocol and conditions for production of the emulsified vaccine and an efficient quality control protocol, with scale-up consideration for further industrial production by regional manufacturers;
  • An efficient improved (geographically adapted) inactivated multivalent vaccine against HW;
  • Identification of biomarkers associated with protective immune responses for vaccine efficacy follow-up.

The project management has been built in such a way as to involve each partner both in achieving the scientific objectives and in communicating with the local actors to guarantee the acceptance of the results. Particular efforts will be made to inform and integrate, from the beginning of the project, farmer communities, veterinary services and regional manufacturers in the discussion of needs, expected and obtained results and outputs of the project, to ensure the correct use of the validated vaccine and to be able to transfer its production at the end of the project. The African partners, who work in close collaboration both with farmers and regional vaccine manufacturers, will be in charge of not only the communication campaign but also in the capacity building of current technical staff and the training of students who will then reinforce and perpetuate the local scientific teams. The project will help to strengthen the partnership between Western, South African and European partners in order to build a research network on HW for sustained research and development projects.

First research outputs of the project are the characterization of ER genetic diversity in Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin and South Africa and the increased capacity of partners for ER diagnostic and research. Both collaboration within the project between partners and organization of trainings for students and research staff will allow strengthening the regional expertise on HW.

Second, the development of an improved inactivated multivalent vaccine with standardised conditions for emulsion step and injection mode will allow the availability of the process for production at industrial level and harmonised use in the field. The transfer to regional manufacturers will be effective when the efficacy of the vaccine will be assessed in the field. The evaluation of the multivalent vaccine in the field will allow the isolation of breakthrough strains and then the building of bank of ER regional strains for vaccine production purposes. Optimisation of the inactivated vaccine against HW will have a positive impact on well-being of small farmers, specially women and children, by increasing the productivity of their herds and participating in food safety. Even if the multivalent vaccines will be tested only in Burkina Faso and South Africa during the project, standardised procedures will make it transferable to other African countries with a specific design of strains for these regions.

A communication plan with direct involvement of farmer associations (questionnaires about their expectations for vaccination, leaflets on the importance and impact of vaccination, and adapted communication tools on the proper use of vaccines) will be developed to strongly help to adapt the take home message. A workshop gathering members of livestock vaccine producers such as LNERV (Senegal), LNE (Burkina Faso), LCV (Mali), LABOCEL (Niger), South African manufacturers, farmers associations and policy makers will be carried out at the end of the project to present results on inactivated vaccines and promote advancements towards commercialization and its modality of use for farmers. Farmer associations will be useful to promote result dissemination regionally. Furthermore, since some of the partners belong to academic or public scientific institutions, dissemination of scientific results will also target high-level international peer-reviewed journals, regional and international conferences. The policy of the consortium for publications will be free access for the readers to spread the results widely.