Image credit: David Mutua, Photographer & Multimedia Producer

Project Overview

With a significant award from the Medical Research Council (UK)-coordinated programme on the Environmental and Social Ecology of Human Infectious Diseases, itself funded through the UK Government’s Living With Environmental Change Initiative, we are undertaking a research programme on the “Epidemiology, ecology and socio-economics of disease emergence in Nairobi.”

The research is focused around the important question of pathogen emergence, and the role of urbanization in the emergence of zoonotic pathogens.  The project is organised around 12 partner institutions in the UK and Kenya (see section on collaborators). A combination of growth and migration is resulting in massive increases in the population of urban and peri-urban (UPU) zones in Africa.  The United Nations has estimated that city populations in Africa will rise from 35% of the total population in 2007 to 51% by 2030. The impacts of this on human welfare, healthcare, sanitation, and other policy-orientated fields has received vast attention, but there has not been a substantive effort to integrate across disciplines, particularly with regard to the impacts of these diverse issues on disease transmission.

The overall objective is to understand the mechanisms leading to the introduction of pathogens into urban populations through livestock commodity value chains, and their subsequent spread. The focus is on livestock as sources of these pathogens, because emerging diseases are likely to be zoonotic in origin, and livestock pathogens, through the close interactions between livestock, their products and people, are at high of risk crossing the species barrier.

The focus in this project is on Escherichia coli, as an exemplar of many potential emerging pathogens, which exists in a diversity of hosts, in the environment, on food, in waste, etc.  The geographical focus is the city of Nairobi, Kenya, and its hinterlands.  In the microbiology components, the project takes a landscape genetics approach to understanding E. colidistribution and spread, with a view to understanding how this is affected by environmental and socio-economic factors.  The project includes a public health component investigating the etiology of diarrhoea in children in low income settlements, centred on the Korogocho and Viwandani slums, part of the Nairobi Urban Health Demographic Surveillance System.


Research Questions

Our broad set of questions include:

  • Does urban livestock keeping pre-dispose people to acquiring new or more diverse microbial flora?
  • Is the risk compounded by poverty status or other social factors?
  • How is the microbial flora influenced by the keeping of livestock in these areas?
  • Do supply chains for livestock and livestock products bring people into contact with microbial diversity over and above what they would otherwise experience?
  • Why do people source food from particular places? What social and economic factors define food sourcing in a complex city?
  • What influences the microbial flora to which people are exposed through food?
  • How does the design of complex urban environments influence exposure to microbial flora?
  • How has the city of Nairobi grown, how does it continue to grow, and how does urbanization in the region affect exposure to microbial diversity in the human and animal population?
  • What is the role of per-domestic wildlife in transmission of zoonotic pathogens and the transport of microbial flora?
  • Why do supply chains exist in the way that they do, and how might they change as demand for products changes with urban growth, or as a consequence of legislation?

The findings will inform development of policy on urban livestock keeping by improving knowledge of the public health risks and by putting those risks in a wider socio-economic context, including the risks associated with alternative sources of livestock products.

PI and co PI's

Prof. Eric FevreEric Fèvre is a Professor of Veterinary Infectious Diseases, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool with expertise in epidemiology of zoonoses at the livestock human interface. View his profile



Jonathan Rushton is an agricultural economist who specialises in the economics of animal health and livestock production and food systems. He is currently involved in global research on One Health and food systems, and has 25 years of international experience of livestock production and the control of animal diseases in South America, Africa and Asia. View his profile


Dr. Cecilia TakoliCecilia Tacoli is a sociologist with interest in urban-rural linkages, food security, migration and gender. She is the Co-Head, Human Settle-ments Group; Team Leader, Rural-urban Development at IIED. View profile


Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi

Catherine Kyobutungi is a clinician and an epidemiologist. She leads the Health Systems and Challenges Research Program at the APHRC. View profile



Prof. Kangethe

Erastus Kangethe is a Professor of Veterinary Public Health at the University of Nairobi. He is a veterinarian with interests in veterinary public health, meat hygiene, urban livestock and zoon-oses and urban development policy in Kenya. View profile


Dr. Delia GraceDelia Grace is a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety specialist at ILRI. She brings exper-tise in applied veterinary public health, food safety and food chain risk assessments and participatory epidemiology. View profile


Prof. Sam Kariuki

Sam Kariuki is currently the Chief Research Scientist and Head of Department, Centre for Microbiology Research at KEMRI in Nairobi. View profile



Prof. Mark Woolhouse

Mark Woolhouse is a Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. View profile



Prof. Julio Davila

Julio Davila is Professor of Urban Policy & International Development, & Director of the Development Planning Unit, University College London (UCL). View profile



Dr. Tim Robinson

Tim Robinson is a Senior Spatial Analyst at ILRI. He maintains the only comprehensive global resource on sub-national livestock statisitcs. View profile



To learn more about our opportunities, please visit our opportunities page.



PI & CO-PI Letters

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