REMESA meeting scheduled in Paris on Tuesday 23 May (room 232 – Maison de la Chimie). Picture © J. Mérot (oie) 2017.
Under the auspice of the co-presidency of Italy and Jordan, the joint OIE-FAO secretariat of REMESA convened an extra REMESA meeting held in the margins of the 85th OIE General Session. The meeting was organised because of the introduction of a new FMD serotype (serotype A) in Algeria and Tunisia in April 2017.
Algeria provided an updated situation about the FMD outbreaks and stated that – although there were some problems to provide the follow up to the OIE – the Veterinary Services are well aware about the situation and informed the audience that the total recorded outbreaks up to 23 May 2017 were 87. Unfortunately, the main constraint encountered to face with the incursion of this new serotype was the unavailability of obtaining the appropriate vaccines to start immunising the animal population (cattle).
Tunisia also provided an overview of FMD situation by highlighting the problematic factor of the political instability of Libya and related difficult control of animal movements at the border with Libya. It was mentioned that Tunisia was able to confiscate at the border with Libya (during the last year) about 6.000 animals entering from Libya and 20% of them tested positive for FMD at the 3ABC ELISA test. The CVO of Tunisia also informed the audience that Tunisia is vaccinating bovines against the serotype A since several years and that, in April 2017, the outbreak was detected in cattle bearing two foreign identification marks (Ireland and France) illegally imported and not vaccinated. In North Africa, the only country that recently imported animals from Ireland was Libya.
In this context, some of the participants stated that Libya is importing more and more animals from Europe and in particular Spain noted that recently has increased the export of cattle towards Libya while in past they shipped mainly sheep. Based on this information and knowing that Libya is regularly importing from Sub-Sharan countries and Middle East countries, it is evident as this country can represent an important cross-road for animal movements and significant problem in terms of biosecurity.
Dr Emiliana Brocchi from the OIE Reference Laboratory for Foot and Mouth Disease, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Lombardia and dell’Emilia Romagna (IZSLER) presented the results of a collaborative work conducted with The Pirbright Institute (United Kingdom), on the phylogenetic analysis of FMD virus in Algeria in 2017 and on the results of the vaccine matching with the Algerian isolates. In addition, she provided a comprehensive overview of the FMD situation in North Africa and Middle East highlighting also the pathway of the long-distance FMD viruses movements.
Morocco reminded the difficulties in controlling the disease between countries in North Africa due to the extension of the borders and the fragility of the control of the animal movements. He recalled that – based on the past experiences – once the disease entered in one country it spread to neighbouring countries as it was for the latest 2014-2015 FMD epidemic due to serotype O. Therefore, the CVO of Morocco stressed on the vital importance of having immediate availability of appropriate vaccines to couple with FMD in North Africa region.
The representative of the EU Commission (Dr Alf-Eckbert Füssel) explained the delay in making antigens held in the EU FMD antigen bank available to the manufacturer for the supply to Algeria of vaccine against the FMD serotype A. The episode conducted the EU to consider such situation in future contractual arrangements.
Dr Rachid Bouguedour took the opportunity to recall the Resolution adopted by the CVOs of countries members of REMESA during the 9th JPC REMESA meeting held in Tunis (Tunisia) on 3-4 November 2014 on the establishment of a vaccine bank (FMD) in North Africa and the subsequent financial commitment of EU, Italy, Spain and France in supporting such a bank if there would have been a co-financing to the project coming from the beneficiary countries. Unfortunately, Dr Bouguedour strongly stated that, if today, there is not yet the North African REMESA vaccine bank is because the North African countries did not make any progress for this project in particular in terms of co-financing mechanism. He also mentioned that there is a different FMD vaccination strategy in the region because of the different risk of FMD incursions. This is confirmed by the fact that today (after the 2014-2015 FMD epidemic caused by the serotype O) only Tunisia was vaccinating against the FMD serotype A because of its border with Libya. The OIE organised a dedicated workshop in Tunis in March 2016 and the experts agreed that the vaccination strategy in North Africa should have been designated and implemented based on the risk. Finally, he expressed concerns about the scarce feedback received from North African countries with reference to the sero-survey investigations they were supposed to conduct – at the same time in the three countries – in collaboration with EuFMD and OIE Reference laboratories. He invited Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco to provide the results from these enquiries at the next REMESA meeting to be held in July in Naples (Italy).
The EuFMD representatives (the President and the Executive Secretary General) reiterated the support provided by EuFMD to North African countries through the supply of diagnostic kits and technical assistance to conduct the actions and sero-surveillance in the region. It was also highlighted the excellent collaboration between the OIE office in Tunis, the OIE Reference Laboratories, EuFMD and the Veterinary Services of Algeria in the occasion of the latest outbreaks detected in Algeria and, in particular, when dispatching the samples towards the OIE Reference laboratory of Brescia.
Dr Labib Bakkali Kassimi (FMD OIE Reference Laboratory, ANSES) recalled the importance to implement a post-vaccination monitoring programme.
Dr Romano Marabelli (CVO of Italy) considered important to resume the project of REMESA North African vaccine bank and invited to generate a document (concept paper) to be discussed at the next REMESA to be held in Naples on 19-20 July 2017. In addition, he stated that would be interesting to explore also potential public-private partnerships capable of responding immediately during the emerging phase of the epidemic for the production and delivery of vaccines to avoid in the future any other unfortunate case. He concluded by announcing that these two points will be discussed again in Naples.
The next JPC REMESA meeting will be held in Naples (Italy) on 19-20 July 2017 where the debate to implement the REMESA vaccine bank for North Africa will be resumed. It will be also discussed and presented the correct protocol and packaging to be used to send biological samples from North African countries to OIE Reference Laboratories.