Botswana, a major animal health player on the African Continent

In 2023, Botswana hosted the 25th World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) Regional Commission for Africa conference in Gaborone. At the opening of the event, the Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) presented field deployable lateral flow multiplex rapid test strips for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) serotype diagnosis in support of strategies for SADC to implement for control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs).

Primarily affecting cattle and other cloven-hoofed ruminants, FMD is a highly contagious TAD with reported annual global economic losses of between US$6 and 21 billion, with $5 billion to production losses and vaccination.  The disease is estimated to circulate in upwards of 70% of the global livestock population in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and a limited area of South America. Of these countries, Africa is disproportionately affected, and pastoral and smallholder farmers are most vulnerable to livelihood loss and food insecurity.   Globally, there are 7 FMDv strains (A, O, C, SAT1, SAT2, SAT3, and Asia1) circulating in different countries, although C hasn’t been reported in the last few years.  In prevention, each strain or strain topotype requires a specific vaccine.

Being endemic in Africa, Botswana as a landlocked country, continually faces exposure to the disease. Up to 80% of Botswana’s agricultural income is derived from beef production and 70% of the export is to European Union countries. An FMD outbreak impacts trade restrictions. To help decrease the incidence and control the disease, the country follows the Progressive Control Pathway for FMDv (PCP-FMD) developed by the Food and Agricultural  Organization (FAO) and the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD), and endorsed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH). This process involves proactive risk management with screening and control strategies. In support of this, the Government of Botswana actively supports diagnosis, surveillance, and vaccine strategies. 

GADx congratulates the BITRI and Dr. Boitumelo Mudabuka, a scientific researcher at the BITRI, on the development and evaluation of a field-deployable multiplex test that can be used to screen cattle suspected of FMD. The low-cost kit empowers non-laboratory trained individuals to take a sample from the animal, process it in the field, and within 25 minutes indicate the presence or absence of FMD viral infection. If FMD positive, additional tests can be used to determine the presence/absence of serotype 0, SATs 2, and 3.  In the future, the BITRI will expand the test to FMDv strains A and SAT 1.

This approach will be a game-changer in surveillance providing a much-needed head-start to implement control procedures to contain the disease. For farmers and the local community, the test reduces the stresses of waiting and the costs associated with a laboratory diagnosis. The test kit has been developed to operate on multiple levels confirming a suspected case of FMD, substantiating the absence of infection, and demonstrating the efficacy of vaccination. If this approach could be adopted across Africa has the opportunity to eradicate the disease.  

Dr. Mudabuka spent six months at GADx working with GADx scientists to develop the Food and Mouth Disease rapid test kit.

About the partners

The Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) is a parastatal under the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, established in 2012, to conduct needs-based research and development in focused areas. The Mandate of BITRI is to identify, develop, and/or adapt appropriate technology solutions that provide sustainable innovative solutions through co-creation and collaboration in line with Botswana’s national priorities and needs.

Frequent testing is invaluable and so it is vital to find ways to drive down the cost of kits and increase production levels. As a social enterprise, GADx can transform this process because it ‘breaks the link’ of ‘having to make profit for shareholders’.

Paul Davis
Co-founder of Mologic and pioneer of lateral flow diagnostics.