Project Overview

This project deals with zoonotic infections amongst livestock and the farmers who keep them.  Zoonotic diseases are infections transmitted between animals and humans; they are a major group of pathogens (approximately 60% of all human-infective organisms), with a diversity of animal hosts including wildlife, pets and domestic animals. Domestic livestock (especially cattle and pigs) are an important source of zoonotic infections to humans, due in part to the close interactions between these agricultural animals and the people who keep them.  While keeping domestic stock is an important source of rural livelihoods in many countries, these animals may also expose the families who keep them to disease risks.  Understanding the interactions between people and their domestic animals, and the transmission of zoonoses between them, is of vital importance in creating the evidence-based disease control policies that are required to protect both human and animal health.

This project addresses a set of hypotheses relating to endemic, neglected zoonoses in livestock and humans in East Africa, and the impact of co-factors (a condition that influences the effects of another condition) on the epidemiology of, and burden imposed by, these diseases. The major objectives are to demonstrate a relationship between co-factors and risk of infection, and to investigate whether interventions aimed at co-factors can affect the risk of infection with the zoonoses.

This epidemiology and public health project involves gaining a comprehensive understanding of the infection history of a large cohort of humans and livestock in a study site in Western Kenya, and is only possible through our excellent collaborations with partners in the region.  Environmental, behavioural and social factors that might contribute to exposure are also being explored, and the project provides the framework for the evaluation of a range of diagnostic tests in this setting.  Using a range of approaches (including mathematical modelling), the findings will be synthesised to devise cost-effective interventions to improve disease control and development policy.

At our study site, we operate a comprehensive community-based sampling programme, sampling in homestead units.  This fieldwork is supported by a full scale diagnostic laboratory facility where we analyse samples of both animal and human origin – we process data collected in the field and process blood and faecal samples from all the participating study subjects; the activity is very much in the spirit of the “One Health” paradigm.  We run a comprehensive range of parasitological and serological tests, the results of which are used to inform clinical treatment.  Our cold chain allows us to prepare material (blood, serum, faeces) for longer term storage and shipment to our central laboratories at the International Livestock Research Institute and Kenya Medical Research Institute, where a second level of diagnostic effort is applied (ELISA testing, PCR), together with genetic analyses of pathogen and livestock samples, and the quantitative analysis of the field and laboratory data generated


Collaborators on this project include the following institutions:

PAZ collaborators logo


The PAZ project, together with other activities at the International Livestock Research Institute, featured on Australian television in March 2011, on the “Catalyst” science programme.  The Catalyst website with the video clip of the programme itself (7mins 49 secs) is embedded below.  Press the “play” button on the video to watch it on-line. Enjoy!

We highlight that the PAZ project depicted in the programme is funded by the Wellcome Trust in the UK, with additional support from the BBSRC and the MRC, and is a project based at the Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution at the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute and the Kenya Medical Research Institute, both in Kenya.

ABC Catalyst – Zoonoses

Catalyst on ABC TV:

Producer:  Dr Paul Willis



This project is principally funded by the Wellcome Trust, with additional support from the BBSRC.


Featured Articles

April 16, 2015Busia County, in Western Kenya is the main research area for the People, Animals and their Zoonoses (PAZ) project. Farmers in this County and its environs are slowly adopting pig farming as an alternative way of earning their livelihoods. There is close interaction between pigs and people as they are either tethered within the homestead […] [...]
April 16, 2015The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), jointly with the University of Edinburgh (UK) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute, with additional support from the Kenyan Department of Veterinary Services, operates a laboratory in the town of Busia, in Western Kenya. It is here that the People, Animals and their Zoonoses (PAZ) project operates a joint human and animal diagnostic laboratory that receives cattle and pig samples from many locations around the Western Kenya region. [...]
April 16, 2015The People, Animals and their Zoonoses (PAZ) project study site, Busia County in western Kenya is a region where the inhabitants are highly dependent on agriculture as their main source of livelihood. There is a very close interaction between livestock and humans making the population in this area highly exposed to a number of neglected zoonotic diseases. [...]
April 16, 2015Fascioliasis is a disease mainly of domestic ruminants (and also affects humans although no human case so far has been reported in Kenya) caused by liver fluke parasites Fasciola gigantica and Fasciola hepatica. Although the former Fasciola species is more common in the tropics and causes serious losses in cattle, sheep and goats and thus posing a major threat to resource poor farmers, Fasciola hepatica has also been reported to occur in high altitude areas of Kenya. In such areas, the two Fasciola species occur side by side. [...]
April 16, 2015Western Kenya is a part of the world with high human and livestock population densities, representative more largely of the whole Lake Victoria Crescent ecosystem. This is a rural area (around 95% of households depend on agriculture as their primary source of livelihoods) where farmers are mixed crop-livestock small-holders – families generally grow crops and keep on average 2.5 head of cattle. [...]
April 16, 2015Drive into a shamba, a Kenyan small-holding, and you can observe first hand the close relationship rural Kenyans hold with their animals: Men ploughing the fields with teams of cattle; women milking cows and goats or using fresh dung to floor their houses; poultry, cats, dogs and children playing together. Pigs, goats and sheep wander in and out of houses, latrines and kitchens, picking at anything remotely edible, all categories of household wastes included. [...]
April 16, 2015This year (2015) the lab will be engaged in a new project to set up an integrated surveillance system that covers both the human and livestock populations in the region. [...]
April 16, 2015Zoonotic diseases are infections transmitted between animals and humans.They are a major group of pathogens, with a wide range of animal hosts. Domestic livestock (especially cattle) are an important source of rural livelihoods, but also a significant group of animal hosts for zoonoses. [...]
March 25, 2015The Wellcome Trust publishes a blog posting highlighting our work on zoonoses. [...]
March 25, 2015ILRI publishes a series of posts on the ILRI-BioLives blog, entitled “A Day in the Life of the PAZ Project” [...]
March 25, 2015The PAZ Busia Laboratory molecular and serological diagnostic facility is built – in association with the ILRI/BecA AusAid-CSIRO African Swine Fever project [...]
March 25, 2015We welcome Hannah Johnson (University of Edinburgh UK) and Mason Jager (Cornell University USA), summer undergraduate students working on the PAZ project [...]
March 25, 2015The International Livestock Research Institute features the work of the PAZ Project on the ILRI blog [...]
March 25, 2015The Veterinary Record features the activities of the PAZ project on neglected zoonoses in Kenya [...]

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