Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), also known as Goat Plague has become a serious threat to worldwide food supplies and poverty relief in poorer nations, leading animal health experts and veterinarians warn in the latest issue of Veterinary Record, a BMJ journal.

Animals infected with the PPR virus have a very high risk of death, the authors add. They urge global agencies, such as FAO (UN Food and Agricultural Organization) and OIE (Office International des Epizooties – World Organization for Animal Health) to focus efforts on eradicating PPR from the planet, as occurred with the rinderpest eradication campaign, which rid the world of the cattle-plague disease.

The authors wrote:

“What is not generally appreciated is that the eradication of rinderpest has yielded benefits that surpass virtually every other development programme in agriculture, and will continue to do so in future.”

In Chad, for example, between 1963 and 2002, for every dollar spent on eradicating rinderpest, there was a return of $16 or more.

PPR, which is endemic in vast parts of sub-Saharan Africa needs the same resolve. The virus also causes problems in large parts of Turkey, south Asia and the Middle East. Recent reports indicate it is also infecting animals in China, central Asia and North Africa.

PPR spreads rapidly in goat herds and sheep flocks, killing many animals and devastating the livelihoods of farmers and their families, the authors write.

Several threatened or endangered wildlife species are also affected.

The authors explained:

“Because poorer people are more likely to keep small ruminants than cattle, women and children tend to have more access and control over them, PPR control and eradication would be both pro-poor and pro-women and children. It fits many development objectives for nutrition, food security and poverty alleviation. We believe that a global programme for the total eradication of PPR should be established as an international undertaking without delay.

Given support from governments, international organisations, and funding agencies, we believe that another great success could be achieved within a 10 year time frame with concerted international effort”

In an accompanying Review, veterinarians from several countries document the history of PPS infection and explain why the virus needs to be eradicated.

They wrote:

“Although PPR has not yet been seen in the UK, and is currently absent from most European countries, it is without doubt the fastest growing and potentially the most economically important disease of sheep and goats anywhere in the developing world.”

Because sheep and goats are perceived as having a lower economic value than cattle, agencies and organizations have not been as enthusiastic about eradicating PPR. Goats and sheep have much shorter working lives than cattle, meaning that any investment would be costlier.

However, the authors warn:

“The ever advancing spread of PPR has made the economic impact of the disease, and consequently the benefits of its eradication, much greater. The imperative for coordinated action is therefore much stronger.”

“Rinderpest eradicated – what next?”
John Anderson, Michael Baron, Angus Cameron, Richard Kock, Bryony Jones, Dirk Pfeiffer, Jeffrey Mariner, Declan McKeever, Chris Oura, Peter Roeder, Paul Rossiter, William Taylor
Veterinary Record July 2, 2011. doi: 10.1136/vr.d4011

Written by Christian Nordqvist