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Walter Plowright

Walter Plowright, CMG, FRS, FRCVS, (born 1923) is a veterinary scientist who has devoted his career to the eradication of the cattle plague Rinderpest. His work led to the development of the Plowright tissue culture rinderpest vaccine, which is predicted to destroy the disease by 2010 [1] and become the first animal disease to be eliminated worldwide. For this achievement, Plowright was named the 1999 World Food Prize Laureate.

Developing a Rinderpest vaccine

As a young veterinary pathologist, Plowright left his native Great Britain to carry out research in Kenya and Nigeria starting in 1950. The East African Veterinary Research Organization at Muguga in Kenya provided the base for Plowright and his colleagues to adopt the cell-culture techniques used to develop the polio vaccine to produce a live attenuated (non-pathogenic) virus for use as a rinderpest vaccine.

Unlike its predecessors, TCRV could be used safely in all types of cattle of any age or health status. It could be produced very economically and conferred lifelong immunity. Initial field use from 1956 to 1963 showed that the vaccine was genetically stable and produced no clinical side effects.

Global Impact of TCRV

The Food and Agriculture Organization predicts the cost of eradicating the virus to be less than $3 million – largely due to the effectiveness and inexpensiveness of TCRV. The contribution to the world’s food supply has been staggering: statistics show that since vaccinations began in Africa, farmers and herders have seen over $45 billion in additional output.

Over 70 million tons of meat and more than 1 billion tons of milk have been added to food production totals in the developing world. The increase in healthy cattle – integral throughout Asia and Africa for fertilizing soils, planting and cultivating crops, and carrying loads– has also boosted production rates on subsistence farms worldwide.

Other work and honors

After 1963, Dr. Plowright also assisted in developing large-scale production techniques and the optimal conditions for extensive application. Major schemes for rinderpest eradication could now be mounted by international agencies with markedly improved prospects of success. The research and application techniques that brought Dr. Plowright success in fighting rinderpest were later replicated by his colleagues to vaccinate against sheeppox and lumpy skin disease.

In 1964, Dr. Plowright returned to the United Kingdom to oversee animal disease research there until his 1983 retirement. He chaired the Royal Veterinary College’s microbiology and parasitology department from 1971 to 1978. In addition to rinderpest, Dr. Plowright has also significantly contributed to the study of such viral animal diseases as African swine fever, malignant catarrhal fever, poxviruses, and herpesviruses.

Plowright’s contributions to developing and perfecting the vaccine for rinderpest made its eradication, for the first time in human history, a practical objective. For this, he has been inducted into the Royal Society of London and received the Order of St. Michael and St. George. He has also received the International Office of Epizootics’ Gold Medal and the Animal Health Trust’s Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Walter_Plowright". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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