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Eggs are not just for breakfast.

Do you recall the last time you had a flu shot?  A flu shot is a vaccine.  Vaccines work by exposing the body to particles called antigens, which trigger an immune response.  When the body senses these virus bits, it kick-starts specialized immune defenses which attack the viral DNA. Once the body eliminates the invaders, it stores a "memory" of that particular invader for years, guarding against future infections.

The traditional way to produce vaccines involves injecting live viruses into a fertilized chicken egg, then letting the egg incubate and become infected with the virus. Afterwards, the liquid inside the egg is removed as the vaccine.  

The same egg process applies to producing the Newcastle vaccine.  This vaccine is for keeping chickens healthy, then in turn keeping the people who raise the chickens and eat them healthy too.  Newcastle disease is a major killer of backyard and village poultry in Africa and Asia.  This is one of the four priority diseases that my NGO partner GALVmed is focused on improving the availability of quality vaccines to poor farmers. 

GALVmed, through the VACNADA (Vaccines for the Control of Neglected Animal Diseases in Africa) program funded for the purchase of three new egg processing machines to the Kenya labs for producing the Newcastle vaccine.  The equipment is able to inoculate 7,500 eggs in 1 hour, decap 9,000 eggs in 1 hour, and harvest 8,000 eggs in 1 hour.  Each of these operations can be completed by 1 technician. 


The machines save on intense labor.  Over several days, I watched the technicians perform the manual process steps which the new machines are replacing.  The inoculation involved punching the fertilized eggs with a nail, inoculating the eggs carefully with a syringe, and finally sealing the eggs with wax before incubation.  Then once the eggs are ready to harvest, the technicians hand cut the shell and slowly squeeze a suction bulb pipette to remove just the fluid.  The inoculation step alone took no less than 3 technicians to perform, and they were only able to process about 450 eggs in one and a half hours.  Alice Musau, one of the technicians, said of the manual harvesting step, “Squeezing the bulb to take up the fluid is very tiring (she patted her shoulders for emphasis). My shoulders tense up and hurt so much after working a harvesting ….”The staff was a little apprehensive initially interacting with the new egg equipment.  During the first commissioning and training session, the equipment vendor says to one of the staff, “Why are you standing so far from the button?”  He was mimicking how the technician was standing at arm’s length to start up the machine.  Now after the training and some hands-on practice, the technicians see and understand that they can produce more vaccine and more quickly with the same number of staff by using the new machines.  Raphael Kurkut, another technician, said, “We are more comfortable with the machines and like them.” Jane Wachira, the Deputy Managing Director at the Kenya labs, expressed great gratitude for the new equipment which will help the labs increase the Newcastle vaccine output of 2 million doses to 5 million doses.  This is an impressive 2.5 fold improvement goal.  GALVmed, through the VACNADA project, has made the Kenya labs’ goal achievable by supplying the much needed egg processing equipment and training the staff on how to use and maintain their new tools for success.



Manual Egg Processing: Inoculate, decap, harvest




Manual Egg Processing: Inoculate, decap, harvest




Manual Egg Processing: Inoculate, decap, harvest



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