Ticks and tick borne diseases killing cattle (cows) in western and central Uganda due to emergence of multi-acaricide resistant ticks

For the last six years, the country has been facing the challenge of ticks not responding to drugs aimed at killing them. Ticks cause diseases that kill the animals, reduce milk production curtail reproduction and growth of animals. National Drug Authority has been central in proposing, supporting, coordinating the campaign against ticks and has contributed enormously to the short, medium and long term interventions geared towards solving this tick challenge by coming up with a policy guide on tick resistance to acaricides.

National Drug Authority together with its collaborative partners; Makerere University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biosecurity scholars (Vudriko et al 2016 and 2017) have confirmed that ticks have developed super resistance to almost all the available 21 acaricides (amidines, pyrethroids, Organosphates and their combinations) on most farms in Western and Central Uganda cattle corridor districts while the same drugs are still killing ticks in the Northern and Eastern Districts. It is also believed that resistance may be spreading to areas without this multiple resistance due to movement of livestock in trade and by Government restocking programs.

The current field situation is worrying in that farmers in the affected districts have resorted to use of smuggled acaricides from neighboring countries which are not - registered in Uganda. These have also not worked as expected. Agrochemicals (Plant Chemicals) and public health chemicals are also currently widely being used for tick control. The safety of all these non-veterinary and smuggled in chemicals on the animals themselves, the farmers applying them and the public consuming the milk and meat from the treated animals is not ascertained / evaluated. This poses a risk to animals, the environment and the general public health. National Drug Authority has confirmed that some people are compounding their own concoctions with Agrochemicals and are being sold expensively to the unsuspecting farmers disguised as products from Rwanda. Use of these unknown chemicals will further complicate the situation leading to no solutions in the near future.

Although poor quality of acaricides has often been blamed, this has been dispelled by scientific research, continuous sampling and analysis of acaricides by National Drug Authority where since 2013 only three batches of acaricides have failed the quality test and actions taken appropriately to withdraw the failed samples. With effect from 2017, NDA has up scaled the quality assurance mechanisms that involve increase in sampling and testing of veterinary drugs and testing of 100% of the acaricides that enter the country.

Uganda is currently facing the worst episode acaricides resistance in its history leading to death of animals and therefore, threatening the future of livestock industry in the affected districts. There is no comprehensive program in place so far for continuous monitoring of this resistance to quantify the magnitude of the problem. This should be the work of Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries. This therefore, complicates the situation and makes it difficult to justify the proposed interventions to solve the problem.

National Drug Authority has been undertaking support missions to farmers and institutions that are concerned with acaricide use. It has also gone ahead to fund studies and surveys on the challenge of acaricide ineffectiveness in the country. These have always revealed that bad farm practices in acaricide application are the largest contributors to the problem. NDA has organized several stakeholder meetings including a breakfast meeting in 2013 where HE The president, some members of the 9th Parliament, district veterinary officers and farmers from some affected districts. In June 2017 NDA wrote to the current 10th Parliament of Uganda committee of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries about this tick challenge to guide the policy leaders on the way forward.

NDA has been taking a lead and funding the formation of National Task Force to look into issues of acaricide resistance and proposing solutions. The National task force has been having members from multiple institutions whose roles are clear in the acaricide supply chain and they had come up with the following recommendations before the current Sate Minister for Animal Industry dissolved it which if implemented would go a long way to addressing the tick challenge we currently facing in Uganda, and the centers of implementation of the interventions were as per the policy on delivery of veterinary services (2001) and National Veterinary Drug Policy (2002):

Short term interventions (already going on)

  • Vaccination against East Coast Fever (ECF): Popularization and encouraging of vaccination against ECF which is the most dangerous tick borne disease. The other tick borne diseases can be managed as they are cheap to treat.

  • The Evidence based prescription of acaricides. The evidence based model is where ticks are tested against all acaricides to see the effective ones to be used on a particular farm - piloted by Makerere College of Veterinary Medicine, funded by JICA.

  • Sensitization of the stakeholders especially in the affected areas (the cattle corridor). This has been done with NDA taking the lead in facilitating and funding the meetings.

  •  NDA has developed and produced sensitization materials in terms of charts, brochures, visual aids on acaricide use. These are in circulation and form the basis of the on-farm acaricide rotation on which the proposed zoning policy will build.

Medium term interventions

  •  Bridging the knowledge gaps: This involves in-service training meetings with extension workers to reinforce knowledge on tick control and acaricide management; this requires that districts and MAAIF ensure a more stable extension workforce at district level through which the knowledge gaps can be addressed.

  • Controls on importation: NDA has instituted more controls during importation of acaricides, requiring mandatory testing of each batch of acaricides imported into the county for quality.

  • National Drug Authority has proposed suspension of combination or multi-ingredient acaricides: These have been identified as limiting the acaricide rotation system as they expose the ticks to more than one acaricide molecule at a time, indicating that more than one molecule can be resisted at the same time. However this recommendation is subject to agreement and policy guidance by MAAIF in order for it to be implemented by NDA.

  •  Introduction of novel products: - to cleanse the affected herds and break the inter-farm variation of resistance. The novel products must be used only for a definite period of time after which they are withdrawn and reserved. All these will necessitate sourcing and pooling of resources to scale up the interventions so far made and transforming them into long term programs.

Long term interventions

1.    Review of policies to provide for:

  • Easier interventions by the Central Government in tick control. The current policy and legal framework indicates that this is a role of the Local Governments and Central Government cannot easily plan and budget for it. However, at this rate the problem can be rated as an epidemic and thus Central Government MAAIF taking it up as provided for in the Policy on delivery of veterinary medicines (2001).

  • Central control and unification of extension messages regarding tick control among other livestock health issues (central command on animal health issues). The Ministry has to issue directives on extension priorities in the livestock sector and unify extension messages that reach the farmers.

  • A framework to institute control and enforcement of distribution of acaricides through an acaricide zoning system based on scientific evidence and continuous monitoring of resistance as per the availablepolicies should be implemented. The zoning as practiced in the past was just a good practice without legal backing. In the current macro-economic policy environment there is need for a legal instrument to institute and enforce this practice.

2.    Strengthening of institutional framework by equipping the participating institutions (responsibility centers: MAAIF, NDA, Makerere College of Veterinary Medicine and NaLiRRI) to effectively control and manage acaricides.

3.    Novel technologies for tick control like anti - tick vaccines and investing in research on herbal medicines should be encouraged.

4.    Institution of subsidies for acaricides and acaricide application devices (pumps, dips and spray races) to ensure proper use of acaricides

Going forward the next solution to the challenge but which will require a lot of guidance from the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries as was directed by HE the President this year in February 2017 at a meeting in Statehouse between Ministry of Agriculture animal Industry and Fisheries, Ministry of Health, National Drug Authority and Makerere University.


National Drug Authority(NDA) advises all animal farmers/keepers whose farms have not developed resistance to apply only NDA registered tick control chemicals / drugs (acaricides) as indicated the table below whose safety to animals, animal product (milk and meat) consumers and their impact on the environment, has been determined and evaluated using well drawn regulatory procedures including in country field trials (tests). The use of smuggled, non-registered acaricides, or agrochemicals that have not been evaluated and registered by NDA to control ticks on animals, exposes a health risk to both animals, human health and the environment. For those farms with super resistance, it is advisable to use Macrocyclic lactone in the group of Epirenomectins which will soon be registered. However, use of this drug should be following proper guidance from the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries on the proper zoning strategy.


NDA registered tick control chemicals / drugs (acaricides) authorized for use on animals.


  AmitrazTaktic12.5%, Amitix 12.5%,
Milbetraz 12.5%, Norotraz 12.5%,
Bovitraz 12.5%, Almatix 12.5%,
Ecotik Dip & spray 12.5%, Tixfix
12.5%, Vapcozin 12.5%, Paratraz
12.5%, Bimatraz 12.5%

 Supona Extra 100%, Supona
Aerosal (multi ingredient)





Bayticol 2%, Bayticol pour - on 1%

Spertix 10%, Alfapor 5%, Renegade 0.5%, Paracide
Cypermethrin 10 EC 10%, Cyperguard 10%, Paratryn 1.5%, BlitzDip 1%
Vectocid 0.5%, Deltaguard 1%

 Organophospates + Pyrethriod
 Duo Dip ( Chlorpyrifos 50%
+ Cypermethrin 5%), Protaid
(Chlorfenvinphos 30%+
Alphacypermethrin 3%)

Macrocycliclactones (injectables and Pour ons)
Ivermectines Eprinomectins
All injectable Invermectins on the
Uganda market are registered
as dewormers that require a
prescription due to their long
drug withdraw period and their
performance to kill external
parasites has never been evaluated
for Uganda.

Eprinomectins with zero drug
withdraw period would help
break the current resistance
to acaricides challenge if used

Addressing the challenge of acaricide resistant ticks requires involvement of all stakeholders. The proposed solutions will highly depend on ability to institute and enforce a uniform standard of acaricide application throughout the country in bid to delay resistance and increase the effective time of any particular acaricide. National Drug Authority as a regulator will continue to be advised by MAAIF, guided by scientific evidence from universities, research institutions and field experiences from the farmers and other field workers to ensure quality of acaricides in the country. We look forward to working with all other stakeholders towards effective control of ticks and tick borne