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[ISLAMABAD] Following the detection in Pakistan of multiple strains of the Newcastle disease virus (NDV) that affects bird populations, scientists are calling for the development of new vaccines and a comprehensive policy to protect poultry stocks from disease outbreaks.
Muhammad Zubair Shabbir, assistant professor at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore, and lead author of a paper on NDV, published in Virology Journal on 30 May, said along with traditional blood surveillance steps need to be taken to develop new vaccines.
“Available vaccines work against intermediate or non-virulent strains, but the more deadly strains call for stronger vaccines with high antibody response,” Shabbir told SciDev.Net.
The study suggests that the fatal virus strains in Pakistan have links to those found in Russia, Indonesia, Sweden and India, the last being responsible for the deaths of dozens of peacocks earlier this year in Sindh province.
The situation, it said, demands continuous isolation and molecular epidemiological investigations of both caged and wild birds, apart from monitoring the immune response of birds to NDV vaccines and strict bio-security measures.
Other scientists, such as Abdul Rehman, director at the Punjab Poultry Research Institute, Rawalpindi, are calling for proactive measures to save farmers from losses caused by outbreaks of NDV.
“Close housing, indiscriminate vaccination, improper bio-security management, unhygienic practices, wild bird movement into farms and insufficient diagnostic facilities are the main causes for the spread of NDV in Pakistan,” Rehman told SciDev.Net.
According to Mustafa Kamal, convenor of the disease control committee of the Pakistan Poultry Association, farmers in this country have suffered losses worth more than USD five million since an outbreak of NDV in 2011, and that the mortality ratio still hovered at 10—20 per cent in the cities of Karachi and Quetta and the provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Khalid Naeem Khawaja, chief scientist and virologist at the National Reference Lab for Poultry Diseases under the National Agricultural Research Centre, Islamabad, says Pakistan needs a comprehensive national policy for a disease-free poultry sector. 

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