Animal Diseases


Goats in Mozambique awaiting sale (photo credit: ILRI/Yvane Marblé).

Animal health leaders and researchers from the Global Burden of Animal Diseases (GBADs) program have secured US$ 7 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to roll out a framework on measuring animal health burdens and their impacts on human lives and economies.

The information provided by the GBADs program will guide public policy and private sector strategy, contributing to improve animal health and welfare more effectively. It will also be a basis for further academic research.

Across the world, livestock production and aquaculture are critical to human nutrition and health. These animals play critical roles in society, providing income and food, but also clothing, building materials, fertilizer and draught power. However, the presence of endemic and emerging diseases, as well as other factors, negatively impact them, jeopardizing their contributions.

Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are invested globally on disease mitigation in order to improve livestock health and productivity. Yet, a systematic way to determine the burden of animal disease on the health and wellbeing of people is not available.

It is still unknown how the burden is apportioned between smallholders and the commercial sector, or across regions and gender. Consequently, decision-makers lack the information to accurately assess whether their investments target the animal health issues that have the most significant impact on human wellbeing.

The GBADs program, led by the University of Liverpool, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and a partnership of international institutions, will enable the examination of animal health and the disease burden from a different perspective.

By assessing the global burden in economic terms, the program will help identify the individuals and communities which are the most impacted, demonstrating how animal health is intrinsically linked to agricultural productivity, smallholder household income, the empowerment of women and the equitable provision of a safe, affordable, nutritious diet.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice Chancellor, University of Liverpool, said: ‘The GBADs program is a key part of our commitment to deploying our research capacity towards the welfare of humankind. The GBADs program is crucial in building a world with zero hunger, good health and equality for all, an urgent mission in which we are proud to play our part. We are grateful for the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, who are supporting this work in partnership with the OIE. Together, we will realise a brighter future for animal and human well-being.’

Dr Monique Eloit, OIE Director General, said: ‘It is more evident now for everyone that animal health and public health are interconnected and play an essential role in building a sustainable and healthy planet, especially if we succeed in incorporating the environmental and socioeconomic components.’

The international institutions partnering with the University of Liverpool and OIE in the GBADs program are the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; the University of Guelph; the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington; the International Livestock Research Institute; Murdoch University; Sciensano; Washington State University; the University of Zurich; and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The program has also received funding from the Brooke Foundation and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

The International Livestock Research Institute will play a key role in investigating and applying approaches to improve our understanding of the burden of animal disease in farming systems in Ethiopia. This work will act as a case study, providing insights relevant to other settings and methods that can be used elsewhere. Understanding the scale and nature of how animal disease impacts livelihoods and economies is key, but this information then needs to be used to better advise governments and other investors in livestock and disease control. Therefore, tools and approaches will be developed to ensure that animal health policies are rational and informed by evidence.

The new partnership will support the implementation of the GBADs program. In a world where 1.25 billion people work in agriculture, the program will have a positive impact on the Sustainable Development Goals contributing to Zero Hunger; Good Health and Well-being; Gender Equality; Decent Work and Economic Growth; and Responsible Consumption and Production.

Photo credit: Goats in Mozambique awaiting sale (ILRI/Yvane Marblé)

Cattle coming in from the fields in the evening in Lhate Village, Chokwe, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has brought into sharp focus the interconnectedness of people, animals and the environment and how this can contribute to the spread of disease.

One Health is a concept that recognizes that the health and well-being of people is intricately linked to the health of animals and the environment. For this reason, disease outbreaks are best tackled through a One Health approach that harnesses the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines and sectors. This is especially so for zoonotic diseases that are spread between animals and people. One Health is also useful for addressing other public health issues such as antimicrobial resistance and food safety. 

One Health is not a new concept, but it has become more important in recent years. This is because many factors have changed interactions between people, animals and the environment. These changes have led to the emergence and re-emergence of zoonotic diseases.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has an established record of collaborative One Health research in Africa and Southeast Asia. To mark One Health Day coming up next week on 3 November, we bring you highlights of some One Health research initiatives by ILRI and partners.

Ecosystem approaches to the better management of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases in Southeast Asia

This project worked directly with over 100 actors involved in managing zoonotic emerging infectious diseases across eight multi-disciplinary teams in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The project increased the capacity of researchers and policy implementers to use One Health approaches for better control of zoonotic diseases. The project also produced various research outputs and increased understanding of the teams’ knowledge, attitudes and practice in relation to One Health and how this approach could lead to better health outcomes for people, animals and the environment.

One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa

This project aims to improve the health and wealth of the people of the Horn of Africa by developing a regional network of individuals and organizations that can undertake high quality research into the link between people’s health and that of livestock and the environment. The project builds capacity to undertake basic and applied research in One Health through training programs and research placements for both research and non-research staff from participating institutions.

One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre in Africa

The One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre in Africa was launched barely a week ago (on 22 October 2020) and is hosted at ILRI’s Nairobi campus. Its goal is to improve the health of humans, animals and ecosystems through capacity building, strengthening of local, regional and global networks and provision of evidence-based policy advice on One Health in sub-Saharan Africa. It has four research themes: control of neglected tropical zoonotic diseases; emerging infectious diseases; food safety and informal markets; and prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance. The centre is currently supporting the Government of Kenya’s national response to the COVID-19 pandemic through COVID-19 testing in ILRI’s bioscience laboratories.

One Health Units for Humans, Environment, Animals and Livelihoods

This project applies a One Health approach to enhance the well-being and resilience of vulnerable communities in pastoralist and agro-pastoralist areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The project brings together professionals in human and animal health and the environment to achieve better access to human and veterinary health services and sustainable natural resource management.

Photo credit: Cattle coming in from the fields in the evening in Lhate Village, Chokwe, Mozambique (ILRI/Stevie Mann)

A pastor and his dog, Yabello, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Camille Hanotte).

World Zoonoses Day is commemorated on 6 July every year to mark the day in 1885 when Louis Pasteur successfully administered the first vaccine against rabies, a deadly zoonotic disease. The day is also an occasion to raise awareness of the risk of zoonoses, infectious diseases that can be spread between animals and people.

On this year’s World Zoonoses Day, we highlight a new research study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases (July 2020) that reports on the development, implementation and effectiveness of grassroots mass dog vaccination campaigns against rabies conducted in 2015, 2016 and 2017 in Laikipia County, Kenya.

According to the World Health Organization, rabies kills tens of thousands of people every year, mainly in Asia and Africa. Globally, rabies causes an estimated cost of US$ 8.6 billion per year. Dog bites are responsible for 99% of all cases of human rabies. Therefore, vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective way to prevent rabies in people.

The research study found that while grassroots volunteer-based dog vaccination campaigns against rabies can be useful, these efforts need to be supported at a larger scale by county and national governments for a more sustainable approach towards eradicating the disease. Below is the author summary.

“Given the importance of mass vaccinations of domestic dogs towards eliminating human rabies in Africa and the site-specific challenges facing such campaigns, additional studies on the development and implementation of such efforts are needed.

One mechanism of mass vaccination lies in grassroots efforts that often begin at a very local scale and either develop into larger campaigns, remain local, or cease to persist past several years once interest and funding is exhausted.

Here, we discuss the development of a grassroots campaign in Laikipia County, Kenya from its local inception to its development into a county-wide rabies elimination effort.

Our results highlight challenges associated with achieving the targeted 70% coverage rate, including a need for consistent and systematic demographic monitoring of dog populations, limitations of the central point method, and logistical and financial challenges facing a volunteer-based effort.

Serious political commitment from both the local and national governments are necessary to take the budget beyond what a crowdfunded campaign can raise, including availability and access to quality dog rabies vaccines.

Without such outside support and substantial time to grow, grassroots campaigns might be better relegated to raising awareness and vaccinating dogs in small communities to protect those communities directly, without contributing to the broader ecosystem-wide transmission-stopping aim often sought by government human health and veterinary organizations.”

Citation

Ferguson, A.W., Muloi, D., Ngatia, D.K., Kiongo, W., Kimuyu, D.M., Webala, P.W., Olum, M.O., Muturi, M., Thumbi, S.M., Woodroffe, R., Murugi, L., Fèvre, E.M., Murray, S. and Martins, D.J. 2020. Volunteer based approach to dog vaccination campaigns to eliminate human rabies: Lessons from Laikipia County, Kenya. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 14(7): e0008260.

Photo credit: A pastor and his dog, Yabello, Ethiopia (ILRI/Camille Hanotte)

Pastoralism

A gender-inclusive approach to community livestock vaccination can help address the different barriers faced by men and women farmers and may increase the uptake of livestock vaccines

Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently published a study on the uptake of the Rift Valley fever vaccine in Kenya and Uganda, incorporating gender in their analysis to better understand the different barriers that men and women farmers face in adopting and using livestock vaccines.

The barriers include the cost of vaccines, long distances to vaccination points, lack of information on vaccination campaigns and decision-making processes at the household level. Understanding these barriers can help veterinary workers design more effective community livestock vaccination programs of benefit to both men and women farmers.

‘Conducting gender analysis on livestock vaccine interventions can enable implementers to identify generic and gender-specific needs of their target beneficiaries’, says Edna Mutua, the lead author of the study and gender consultant at ILRI.

‘This will allow the use of the findings to inform the design and delivery of vaccination interventions to increase efficiency and uptake’, she adds.

Rift Valley fever is a viral, mosquito-borne zoonotic disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats and camels. It causes abortions in livestock and flu-like illness in humans. People can get infected through contact with secretions or tissue of infected animals.

Rift Valley fever is endemic in East Africa and its impacts are significant. An outbreak of the disease in Kenya in 2006–07 caused 150 human deaths and led to losses of USD 32 million from livestock deaths, reduced animal productivity and trade bans on livestock and livestock products.

Vaccination of livestock is currently the most effective measure to control the disease. Previous research on Rift Valley fever vaccines have tended to focus on the production, safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Very few studies have been carried out on the uptake and adoption of livestock vaccines and most of these did not include gender in the study design and analysis but treated male and female livestock farmers as a homogeneous group.

This new ILRI-led study, published in the journal Vaccines (August 2019), provides useful insights into how prevailing gender dynamics in communities such as the division of roles and responsibilities in farmers’ households can influence the uptake and adoption of livestock vaccines.

Uptake was defined as the process the farmers take from when they receive livestock vaccination information to consenting to have their animals vaccinated and presenting the animals for vaccination. Adoption was defined as the continuous use of the vaccine when needed, even without the intervention of veterinary departments.

The study was carried out in Kwale and Murang’a counties in Kenya and Arua and Ibanda districts in Uganda. Data were collected through 58 focus group discussions (30 in Kenya and 28 in Uganda), with 8–12 discussants per group, selected based on whether or not livestock were vaccinated during recent outbreaks of Rift Valley fever.

To incorporate gender into the study design, in each country, half of the focus groups comprised men only and the other half women only. This gender disaggregation enabled the research team to collect data from the different gender groups across all four study locations.

The researchers found that men and women farmers faced different barriers in accessing and using livestock vaccines and that these constraints were influenced by socio-cultural and economic contexts and location.

For all focus groups across the four locations, the farmers ranked the top three barriers to the uptake of livestock vaccines as the cost of vaccines, limited access to information on vaccination and the side effects of the vaccines. However, including the gender and locational differences in the analysis brought forth a clearer picture of which group was most affected by which constraint.

Women in one region, for example, cited the cost of vaccines as the key challenge while women in another cited the limited information available on vaccination campaigns. In one region, the cultural dynamics around livestock ownership were paramount; in another, the long distances the women had to walk their animals to access the vaccination points was key.

The general lesson, however, was the same: ‘Provision of livestock vaccines by veterinary departments does not always guarantee uptake by men and women farmers’, lead author Edna Mutua notes.

Mutua is optimistic that veterinary authorities in Kenya and Uganda will use the research findings to design more effective community vaccination campaigns to prevent and control Rift Valley fever.

‘My hope is that this study serves as an eye-opener to veterinary departments in Kenya and Uganda on the need to integrate gender analysis into their livestock vaccine programs’, she says. ‘Optimizing vaccine uptake requires us to have a better understanding of the local contexts and constraints within which male and female farmers operate’.

This article by Tezira Lore was first published in the ILRI 2019 Annual Report.

Photo credit: A herder with his livestock in Isiolo County, Kenya (ILRI/Dorine Odongo)

Farming scene in the highlands of Ethiopia (ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has focused global attention on the interconnectedness of people, animals and the environment and how this links to the spread of zoonotic diseases, two postdoctoral scientists affiliated with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are among five recipients of this year’s Soulsby Fellowships, awarded to support early career researchers in human or veterinary medicine working on One Health projects. 

One Health can be defined as the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.

The two postdoctoral scientists, Lisa Cavalerie from the University of Liverpool and Mark Nanyingi from the University of Liverpool and the University of Nairobi, are collaborators in the One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa project, a multidisciplinary international partnership that is working to improve the health and wealth of people in the Horn of Africa through One Health research.

Lisa Cavalerie, a veterinary epidemiologist, will study the benefits and risks of livestock ownership to maternal health in women in Ethiopia. She says: ‘The aim of the study will be to develop sustainable livestock health management to improve both maternal and child health.’

Mark Nanyingi, an infectious disease epidemiologist, will investigate the presence of Rift Valley fever virus in people, livestock and mosquitoes in Kenya. He aims to develop a human-animal integrated surveillance system which will inform national policy- and decision-making in the event of outbreaks. ‘This study will enhance our understanding of the geographical risk, distribution and genetic diversity of the virus,’ says Nanyingi.

We congratulate them on their awards and wish them all the best as they undertake their research projects.

Read more about the Soulsby Foundation and the other 2020 Soulsby Fellows.

Photo credit: Farming scene in the highlands of Ethiopia (ILRI/Apollo Habtamu)

Cows walk along an irrigation canal in Niolo, Mali (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

As part of a special COVID-19 series by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Bernard Bett and Delia Randolph of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and John McDermott of IFPRI write on the growing risk in Africa of pathogens that spread from animals to people and how we can learn from past epidemics to improve preparedness and response.

In their article, the scientists discuss the evolving patterns of emergence and spread of zoonotic pathogens, factors that might influence the spread of emerging zoonotic pathogens and the opportunities for controlling emerging infectious diseases in Africa. 

They write: “The record thus far on COVID-19 and on past disease outbreaks shows that early, effective and sustained response is essential to winning the battle over these diseases. Innovative use of information and communication tools and platforms and engagement of local communities are crucial to improved disease surveillance and effective response. Building these systems requires demand from the public and commitment from policymakers and investors.” 

Read the full article, Africa’s growing risk of diseases that spread from animals to people, originally posted on the IFPRI website.

Bernard Bett is a senior scientist with ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program, Delia Randolph is the co-leader of ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program and John McDermott is the director of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. The analysis and opinions expressed in the article are of the authors alone.

Photo credit: Cows walk along an irrigation canal in Niolo, Mali (ILRI/Mann)

Borana women with sheep and goats at a traditional deep well water source, Garba Tulla, Isiolo, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Fiona Flintan).

Brucellosis is an important zoonotic disease that affects wildlife and livestock. People may get exposed to the disease through direct contact with an infected animal or consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. In humans, the disease is characterized by prolonged fever, body aches, joint pains and weakness, while in livestock, it mainly causes abortions and infertility. 

A study carried out in Garissa and Tana River counties of Kenya set out to identify the factors that affect the spread of brucellosis in people and livestock. Livestock and people from randomly selected households were recruited and serum samples were obtained and screened for Brucella antibodies to determine the level of exposure to Brucella spp. 

The study found that the chances of exposure to brucellosis in humans were at least three times higher in households that had at least one Brucella-seropositive animal compared to those that had none. 

This finding can be used to design risk-based surveillance systems for brucellosis, based on the locations of the primary cases of the disease, where each case of Brucella infection identified in livestock could signal potential locations of additional brucellosis cases in humans, and vice versa.

Citation

Kairu-Wanyoike, S., Nyamwaya, D., Wainaina, M., Lindahl, J., Ontiri, E., Bukachi, S., Njeru, I., Karanja, J., Sang, R., Grace, D. and Bett, B. 2019. Positive association between Brucella spp. seroprevalences in livestock and humans from a cross-sectional study in Garissa and Tana River Counties, Kenya. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 13(10): e0007506.

Photo credit: Boran women with sheep and goats at a traditional deep well water source, Garba Tulla, Isiolo, Kenya (ILRI/Fiona Flintan)

The design of strategies for uptake of livestock vaccines by communities in East Africa should take into account that male and female farmers face different barriers in the uptake of the vaccines, a new research study says.

These barriers include the cost of the vaccines, distances to vaccination points, access to information on vaccination campaigns and decision-making processes at household level. Some constraints affect both men and women while others affect one gender group only, based on prevailing gender norms and division of labour.

The study, published in the journal Vaccines (8 Aug 2019), was undertaken by a team of scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute, Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and the United States Agency for International Development Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.

The work was carried out in purposively selected sites, namely, Kwale and Murang’a counties in Kenya and Arua and Ibanda districts in Uganda. The sites in Kenya were selected because livestock there had recently been vaccinated against Rift Valley fever while the sites in Uganda were chosen because they had experienced recent outbreaks of the disease but no vaccination was carried out. Data were collected through 58 focus group discussions (30 in Kenya and 28 in Uganda), with 8–12 discussants per group.

The researchers found that women in Kwale experienced more difficulties than their male counterparts in accessing information on vaccination campaigns while women in Ibanda had limited decision-making capacity over the management and control of livestock diseases because of culturally defined livestock ownership patterns. 

The cost of vaccines was a greater barrier for men than for women because the role of managing and controlling livestock diseases in these communities was culturally ascribed to men.

To be effective, therefore, livestock vaccination campaigns need to consider the socio-cultural gender dynamics that exist at household and community level. It is not enough to merely provide vaccines to the community during mass campaigns.

“Availability of vaccines does not guarantee uptake at community level due to social, spatial, economic and vaccine safety and efficacy barriers faced by men and women farmers,” the researchers note.

They add, “Vaccine uptake is a complex process which requires buy-in from men and women farmers, veterinary departments, county/district governments, national governments and vaccine producers”.

Citation

Mutua, E., Haan, N. de, Tumusiime, D., Jost, C. and Bett, B. 2019. A qualitative study on gendered barriers to livestock vaccine uptake in Kenya and Uganda and their implications on Rift Valley fever control. Vaccines 7(3): 86.

Photo credit: A herder with his livestock in Isiolo County, Kenya (ILRI/Dorine Odongo)

Taking sheep for disease testing in Bako, Ethiopia
Taking sheep for disease testing in Bako, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Barbara Wieland).

World Zoonoses Day is marked annually on 6 July to commemorate the day in 1885 when Louis Pasteur successfully administered the first vaccine against a zoonotic disease when he treated a young boy who had been mauled by a rabid dog. The day is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the risk of zoonoses, infectious diseases that are spread between animals and people. 

Scientists estimate that 60% of known infectious diseases in people and 75% of new or emerging infectious diseases in people are transmitted from animals. Neglected zoonoses associated with livestock, such as brucellosis and cysticercosis, impose a huge health burden on poor people and reduce the value of their livestock assets.

Through its Animal and Human Health program, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) carries out research with national and international partners towards improving the control of zoonotic diseases through a range of tools and approaches such as risk mapping and risk targeting, modelling of zoonotic pandemics, decision-support tools and advice on vaccination strategies. The program also generates evidence for policymakers on the cost and impact of zoonoses and the benefits of their prevention.

Some of our collaborative research on zoonoses includes work on developing optimal vaccination strategies for Rift Valley fever in East Africa, studying the epidemiology, ecology and socio-economics of disease emergence in Nairobi and developing an effective surveillance program for zoonoses in livestock in Kenya.

For an in-depth look, listed below are some of our research publications on zoonoses:

For more information on ILRI’s research on zoonoses, contact Bernard Bett, senior scientist at ILRI (b.bett@cgiar.org) or Eric Fèvre, professor of veterinary infectious diseases, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool on joint appointment at ILRI (eric.fevre@liverpool.ac.uk).


Farmer herds his three bulls in Nikhekhu Village, Dimapur, Nagaland, India (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Rapid urbanization in India has led to expansion of peri-urban fringes, where intensive, industry-style livestock rearing has led to emerging vulnerabilities at the human-animal-environment interface.

To better understand the health system and farm-level factors that influence the risk of transmission of bovine tuberculosis in animals and humans, a qualitative study was undertaken among smallholder dairy farms in peri-urban zones in three cities in India: Guwahati, Ludhiana and Bangalore. Data were collected through literature reviews, expert consultations and in-depth interviews.

The study, published in BMC Public Health (March 2019), found that farmers consulted veterinarians as a last resort after home remedies and quacks had failed. Damage control measures, especially with respect to selling or abandoning sick animals, added to the risk of disease transmission.

Although civic authorities believed in the adequacy of a functioning laboratory network, end users were aggrieved at the lack of services. Despite the presence of extension services, knowledge and awareness were limited, promoting risky behaviour.

In addition, the absence of policies on the management of bovine tuberculosis may have influenced stakeholders not to consider it to be a major animal and public health concern.

“Evidence is needed not only about the burden and risks, but also on possible options for control applied in the local Indian setting,” the authors say.

The study also recommends that the identified gaps in knowledge be addressed through collaborative research and One Health interventions involving both animal and human health sectors.

Access the article Community, system and policy level drivers of bovine tuberculosis in smallholder periurban dairy farms in India: A qualitative enquiry by A.S. Chauhan and others.

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