Wildebeest-associated malignant catarrhal fever: perspectives for integrated control of a lymphoproliferative disease of cattle in sub-Saharan Africa.
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Wildebeest-associated malignant catarrhal fever (WA-MCF), an acute lymphoproliferative disease of cattle caused by alcelaphine herpesvirus 1 (AlHV-1), remains a significant constraint to cattle production in nomadic pastoralist systems in eastern and southern Africa. The transmission of WA-MCF is dependent on the presence of the wildlife reservoir, i.e. wildebeest, belonging to the species Connochaetes taurinus and Connochaetes gnou; hence, the distribution of WA-MCF is largely restricted to Kenya, Tanzania and the Republic of South Africa, where wildebeest are present. WA-MCF is analogous to sheep-associated MCF (SA-MCF) in many aspects, with the latter having sheep as its reservoir host and a more global distribution, mainly in developed countries with intensive livestock production systems. However, unlike SA-MCF, the geographic seclusion of WA-MCF may have contributed to an apparent neglect in research efforts aimed at increased biological understanding and control of the disease. This review aims to highlight the importance of WA-MCF and the need for intensified research towards measures for its integrated control. We discuss current knowledge on transmission and geographical distribution in eastern and southern Africa and the burden of WA-MCF in affected vulnerable pastoral communities in Africa. Recent findings towards vaccine development and pertinent knowledge gaps for future research efforts on WA-MCF are also considered. Finally, integrated control of WA-MCF based on a logical three-pronged framework is proposed, contextualizing vaccine development, next-generation diagnostics, and diversity studies targeted to the viral pathogen and cattle hosts.