Asiatic lion India

View from India: Use digital tools to improve animal health

Image credit: Nilanjan Bhattacharya, Dreamstime

Vaccine technology for animals is awaiting approval

Ancovax, India’s first Covid vaccine for animals, has been developed by Haryana-based Indian Council for Agricultural Analysis (ICAR)-National Research Centre on Equines (NRC). It is awaiting approval. This is an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 delta vaccine for animals. Its immunity neutralises both the delta and omicron variants of the coronavirus. The vaccine may possibly be used for animals in zoos and national parks. That could be because predators such as lions, leopards and tigers have been infected with SARS-CoV-2. A few such incidents have been reported during the pandemic.

A Covid-19 vaccine for animals may be necessary because large carnivores or minks could get affected. Broadly speaking, animal-to-animal Covid transmission is as likely as animal-to-human transmission. Whether the virus mutates in the animal population remains to be seen.

According to media reports, Ancovax has been tested on domestic and stray canines, and wild and laboratory animals. Reports indicate that the vaccine can be administered to dogs, lions, leopards, mice and rabbits. Large-scale production of Ancovax could be viewed as an opportunity for ICAR to forge private-public partnerships. Widespread distribution of the vaccine and training zoo keepers at a national level may be a means of economic gain.

Covid-19 has been disruptive, and has caused damage to people’s wellbeing. Yet it has opened new avenues for research. For instance, the country’s research scientists have arrived at diagnostic kits. Narendra Singh Tomar, the Union Minister for Agriculture, has launched the kits, which are made in India.

The Equine DNA Parentage Testing Kit is a powerful genomic technology for parentage analysis. Multiplex PCR Technology is used to compare allele sizes and this helps determine the parentage among the horses. At ICAR-NRC on Equines, an optimized 21 DNA Market Panel is being used for parentage testing.

Then there’s the CAN-CoV-2 ELISA kit, a sensitive and specific nucleocapsid protein based indirect ELISA kit for antibody detection against SARS-CoV-2 in canines. Laboratory animals are not required for the preparation of the antigens. The kit is made in India and a patent has been filed for the same.

The annual loss to livestock productivity is estimated to be Rs 44.740 billion (£465m) attributable to Surra, a haemoprotozoan disease of different livestock species caused by Trypanosoma evansi, which occurs in agro-climatic regions. It is understandable that a Surra ELISA Kit has been conceptualised. This is a suitable diagnostic assay for Trypanosoma evansi infection in multiple animal species. Lauding the contribution of scientists, Union Minister Tomar said, “The Council’s scientists’ unparalleled contributions have made the country succeed not only in essential crops’ production, but in the various fields of agricultural and allied sciences as well at the global level.”

From a technology standpoint, cloud mapping tools, computer vision and satellite imagery can give an insight into the habitat of the animal species. Their activities can be tracked and monitored. Along with this, their movements can be traced through neck tag sensors. Machine learning and data emerging from predictive analysis may help determine the health of the animals and could point out those that are likely to fall ill. Electronic record of animals can bring in accuracy and improve operations in the farms and zoos. All this can be digitally linked to the veterinary experts.

Generally, animal health and wellbeing are essential for the ecology and economy. Zoos too have a role in the ecological system. Many zoos conduct research on animal species, which could provide a backdrop for conservation efforts. It’s not only the zoos but farmers need access to veterinarians to vaccinate livestock for healthy farming. Not just that, but animal diseases could harm the environment as well as the crops which we consume. In order to improve the yield of crops and ensure food security, farms have to maintain the health of animals. Now that could be the secret for a smooth culinary farm to fork experience.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles