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WHAT ARE CORONAVIRUSES?Coronaviruses are a large family of RNA (ribonucleic acid) viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)....
ZooLinK is almost four years old. During those four years, the topic of surveillance has risen even higher up the infectious diseases agenda. There are two main reasons for this. First, there is the recurring threat of emerging viral diseases, such as Ebola and Lassa fever in Africa, where early detection is a key element of a successful public health response. Second, there is a greatly increased global awareness of the public health threat posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR), leading to the realisation that AMR surveillance is challenging and, often, is not being done particularly well. Despite this, diagnostics and surveillance are not priority topics for many funders; though thankfully some, such as our own BBSRC and others such as B&MGF, do ‘get it’. So projects such as ZooLinK have an opportunity (and perhaps a responsibility) to make the case for surveillance by demonstrating actual or potential public health benefits. I believe that we are doing that although, in these late stages of the project, it is important that we put our arguments out there in the form of conference talks and publications.
Our participation in the ZooLinK suite of projects will remain memorable. We have acquired sufficient knowledge and experience through the exposure given to us by ZooLinK staff and our participation in the target areas of the project. Since we joined the project on May 2018, we have rotated among the three functional units of the project, namely: (1) veterinary team who visit the livestock markets and slaughterhouses; (2) laboratory team and (3) clinicians team who visit the health centres. The following report will focus on the veterinary team. It describes the activities carried out therein and their relevance to the project.
This serum bank will serve as a platform for future development and validation of diagnostic tools that will allow for a quicker and more accurate diagnosis of porcine cysticercosis. The disease is zoonotic, meaning that it can be transmitted between humans and animals (pigs). The tapeworm, Taenia solium, causes taeniasis in people and can cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea and indigestion. The larval stage of the worm can infect both pigs and people. In people, the larval stage can become encysted in the brain and/or spinal cord, causing neuro-cysticercosis. This is an important cause of acquired epilepsy – a debilitating disease. The signs of the disease in humans include seizures, chronic headaches, dementia, and may result in death.
We have been sampling in the twelve selected live-stock markets, four each in the counties of Busia, Bungoma and Kakamega. At each market, we are collecting data on, and biological samples from, up to ten randomly selected cattle and small ruminants. Sampling in livestock markets can be challenging as traders are busy people who want to sell their animals. Moreover, some shared with us the perception that having their animal sampled may send the wrong message to future buyers. We are reminded once again of the importance of engaging local stakeholders at an early stage to help explain the study purpose and facilitate study participation.
The eleventh Tanzania Wildlife Institute (TAWIRI) conference themed, “People, livestock, and climate change: Challenges for sustainable biodiversity conservation”, was held from 6th to 8th December 2017 at the Arusha International Conference Centre (Fig.1). The conference had over 300 local and global participants with diverse knowledge on wildlife conservation with 4 keynote papers, 3 symposia, and 7 parallel sessions amounting to 167 oral and 19 poster presentations whose findings are intended to contribute to wildlife conservation in Tanzania and the region.
Where we work in East Africa, as in many other parts of the world, an additional problem is that antibiotic sales and use are frequently unregulated. A lot of commercial animal feed still contains antibiotics – so always check the label and ask the vet or seller if you are in any doubt. Good hygiene in animal production is much better as a preventative, as this can also help reduce viral and parasite infections that will not be helped by in-feed antibiotics in any case. If animals are sick, then involving a vet at an early stage is important to get the right treatment, rather than just buying a drug from an untrained seller and hoping for the best. Especially in remote rural areas, antibiotics may be on sale in the local kiosk, alongside the soap, candles and sweets.
On 14th November, the Kenya Veterinary Association (Twitter @KVANational) hosted a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) event at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Nairobi, Kenya. The Faculty is a collaborator in many of the ZED group’s projects, and recently, we have been awarded funds to develop a joint programme, with a number of other partners, on Antimicrobial Resistance. Thus, an AMR CPD event, part of #WAAW, was a good opportunity to talk to stakeholders.
November 3rd is International One Health Day. One Health is the idea that the health of people, animals, plants and the environment are interlinked, and that health will be optimised by different disciplines (such as medicine, veterinary science, social science, economics, environmental science) working together rather than independently. It goes to the heart of multidisciplinarity in science, with large gains to be made by bringing together experts who may approach the similar problems with different skill sets and approaches.