A live chicken vendor weighs a chicken in Hung Yen province, Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Nguyen Ngoc Huyen).

As countries around the world continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in collaboration with national and international research partners, are contributing to the growing body of knowledge on COVID-19 and its impacts on health and food safety.

Listed below is a range of recent research outputs on COVID-19 authored and co-authored by scientists from ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program.

Book chapter

  • Bett, B., Randolph, D. and McDermott, J. 2020. Africa’s growing risk of diseases that spread from animals to people. In: Swinnen, J. and McDermott, J. (eds), COVID-19 and global food security. Washington, D.C.: IFPRI. pp. 124–128.

Discussion paper

  • Mutua, F., Kang’ethe, E. and Grace, D. 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for food safety in East Africa. ILRI Discussion Paper 40. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

News commentary

Peer-reviewed articles in journals

  • Chen, X., Hu, W., Yang, M., Ling, J., Zhang, Y., Deng, L., Li, J., Lundkvist, Å., Lindahl, J.F. and Xiong, Y. 2021. Risk factors for the delayed viral clearance in COVID-19 patients. Journal of Clinical Hypertension 23(8): 1483–1489.
  • Hoffman, T., Nissen, K., Krambrich, J., Rönnberg, B., Akaberi, D., Esmaeilzadeh, M., Salaneck, E., Lindahl, J. and Lundkvist, Å. 2020. Evaluation of a COVID-19 IgM and IgG rapid test; an efficient tool for assessment of past exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Infection Ecology & Epidemiology 10(1): 1754538.
  • Kibugu, J., Munga, L., Mburu, D., Grace, D. and Lindahl, J. 2021. Exposure to chronic dietary aflatoxin poisoning is potentially a compromising condition in COVID-19 patients in Africa. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development 21(6). Letter to the Editor.
  • Koopmans, M., Daszak, P., Dedkov, V.G., Dwyer, D.E., Farag, E., Fischer, T.K., Hayman, D.T.S., Leendertz, F., Maeda, K., Hung Nguyen-Viet and Watson, J. 2021. Origins of SARS-CoV-2: window is closing for key scientific studies. Nature 596(7873): 482–485.
  • Lindahl, J.F., Hoffman, T., Esmaeilzadeh, M., Olsen, B., Winter, R., Amer, S., Molnár, C., Svalberg, A. and Lundkvist, Å. 2020. High seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in elderly care employees in Sweden. Infection Ecology & Epidemiology 10(1): 1789036.
  • Lindahl, J.F., Olsen, B. and Lundkvist, Å. 2020. COVID-19—a very visible pandemic. Lancet 396(10248): e16.
  • Ling, J., Hickman, R.A., Li, J., Lu, X., Lindahl, J.F., Lundkvist, Å. and Järhult, J.D. 2020. Spatio-temporal mutational profile appearances of Swedish SARS-CoV-2 during the early pandemic. Viruses 12(9): 1026.

Popular science articles


  • Okoth, E. and Oyola, S. 2020. Repurposing ILRI labs to support national COVID-19 testing in Kenya. Poster prepared for the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock Africa 1 regional online meeting, 2-3 September 2020. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.
  • Sharma, G., Dey, T.K., Garlapati, S., Grace, D., Shome, R. and Lindahl, J.F. 2020. Secondary effects of COVID-19 on One Health. Poster presented at the virtual edition of the 6th World One Health Congress, 30 October–3 November 2020.


Webinar presentations

  • Grace, D. 2020. Envisioning One Health post-COVID. Contribution to a webinar by Pontifical Catholic University, Chile on COVID-19: One Health and Our Future, 30 July 2020.
  • Grace, D. 2020. The role of data in predicting and responding to emerging zoonotic diseases. Contribution to an online discussion: How can the Livestock Data for Decisions community respond to COVID-19? 27 May 2020.
  • Grace, D. 2021. Food safety in the era of COVID-19: Ensuring consumers’ trust. Keynote presentation at a webinar on ‘Food safety in the context of sustainable food systems: Moving forward for a healthy tomorrow in Europe and Central Asia’, 7 June 2021. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.
  • Knight-Jones, T. 2020. Urban informal markets in Africa: Challenges of crisis. Contribution to a roundtable webinar by the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) on COVID-19 crisis: Implications for food systems in developing economies (Focus on Africa), 17 April 2020.
  • Nene, V. 2021. Potential impacts of COVID-19 research on livestock health research and innovation. Presentation at a virtual event ‘Building back better: How can public food and agricultural research institutions be strengthened and rebuilt after the COVID-19 pandemic?’, 2 February 2021. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

ILRI is one of 15 research centres of CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. For more information on CGIAR’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, read about CGIAR research on COVID-19 or visit the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub.

Photo credit: Live chicken vendor, Hung Yen province, Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Nguyen Ngoc Huyen)

Following the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), measures to contain its spread have affected several aspects of the food value chain, including safety. Although COVID-19 is not transmitted through food, poor hygiene and sanitation can enhance its spread.

Scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently led a study to examine the impacts of COVID-19 mitigation measures on food safety in East Africa.

Data were collected in November and December 2020 through telephone and online interviews with 25 food safety experts based in East Africa who had previously worked with ILRI scientists on food safety projects.

The study found that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent control measures, including restriction of movement and dusk-to-dawn curfews, disrupted various food supply chains.

In East Africa, the livestock value chain was most affected, with supplies of meat, dairy and poultry products being disrupted. Also affected were supply chains for fruits, vegetables and fish. The cereals value chain was perceived to be the least affected.

With regard to regulation, market surveillance programs for food safety were disrupted. In addition, concerns were noted on the safety of bulk-purchased food, for example, the risk of aflatoxins or the expiry of food products.

In general, the study observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted food systems in East Africa in terms of access to and safety of food products.

The authors therefore recommend that interventions to address future pandemics consider the possible negative impacts of disease mitigation measures; a One Health approach would facilitate this.


Mutua, F., Kang’ethe, E. and Grace, D. 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for food safety in East Africa. ILRI Discussion Paper 40. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Photo credit: Fruit and vegetable on sale in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ILRI/Geraldine Klarenberg)

The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change represent converging challenges to which no continent, country or community is immune. Aligning the global recovery from COVID-19 with our response to climate change offers a triple win: protect public health, promote a sustainable economy and preserve our planet.

This is according to a new report by the Lancet Countdown initiative, an international, multi-disciplinary research collaboration that tracks the evolving public health impacts of climate change and publishes its findings annually in The Lancet medical journal ahead of the United Nations climate change negotiations.

The Lancet Countdown 2020 report, launched on 3 December 2020, tracks the links between health and climate change across 43 indicators in five domains:

  • climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerabilities;
  • adaptation, planning and resilience for health;
  • mitigation actions and health co-benefits;
  • economics and finance; and
  • public and political engagement.

The report represents the findings and consensus of the 35 leading academic institutions and United Nations agencies that make up the Lancet Countdown initiative, and draws on the expertise of climate scientists, geographers, engineers, experts in energy, food and transport, economists, social and political scientists, data scientists, public health professionals and doctors.

Among the report’s co-authors is Delia Grace, professor of food safety systems at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich and contributing scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute.

Visit the Lancet Countdown 2020 website to read thematic summaries and key findings of the report. The full text of the report is available for free via The Lancet (you will need to create a free account with The Lancet).

Photo credit: A Maasai pastoralist taking livestock to drink from the Olkitikiti Dam in Olkitikiti village, Kiteto, Tanzania (ILRI/Fiona Flintan)

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

The effects of COVID-19 have gone undocumented in nomadic pastoralist communities across Africa, which are largely invisible to health surveillance systems despite their significance in the setting of emerging infectious disease.

A new research paper in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (online first 10 Sept 2020) exposes these landscapes as a ‘blind spot’ in global health surveillance, elaborates on the ways in which current health surveillance infrastructure is ill-equipped to capture pastoralist populations and the animals with which they coexist, and highlights the consequential risks of inadequate surveillance among pastoralists and their livestock to global health.

As a platform for further dialogue, the authors of the paper also present solutions to address this gap. These include the development of an integrated One Health surveillance system that links pastoralists, their livestock and overlapping wildlife populations with centralized disease reporting. Community-based syndromic surveillance and participatory epidemiology would also improve early detection and reporting of disease outbreaks for more timely control interventions.

Hassell, J.M., Zimmerman, D., Fèvre, E.M., Zinsstag, J., Bukachi, S., Barry, M., Muturi, M., Bett, B., Jensen, N., Ali, S., Maples, S., Rushton, J., Tschopp, R., Madaine, Y.O., Abtidon, R.A. and Wild, H. 2020. Africa’s nomadic pastoralists and their animals are an invisible frontier in pandemic surveillance. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

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

Roadside market. Mozambique, Angonia province (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

As the impacts of COVID-19 spread across the globe, the virus threatens more than health systems worldwide. It also poses serious risks to food security, local businesses, national economies and hard-fought progress by stakeholders at all levels towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The global response to the pandemic must be swift and science-based, harnessing knowledge for emergency response, recovery and resilience.

Research leaders in health and agriculture have launched a new COVID-19 Hub to consolidate existing scientific evidence and help support response, recovery and resilience measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warned recently, immediate action on food systems is needed to prevent a global food emergency that could have long-term health effects.

The CGIAR COVID-19 Hub, coordinated by CGIAR, the world’s largest publicly funded agricultural research network, brings together the latest science on agriculture and health to inform a research-based response to the pandemic.

The International Livestock Research Institute joins the International Food Policy Research Institute, the CGIAR System Organization and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine as co-implementers of the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub.

Hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, the Hub provides a coordinated research response to the pandemic, convening researchers, funders and key stakeholders.

It focuses on supporting national response and recovery work across CGIAR research themes through the response, recovery and resilience phases of the pandemic, with work from across CGIAR’s global network of 14 research centres and 15 research programs and platforms, in close collaboration with other research organizations, policymakers, non-governmental organizations and many other stakeholders.

Photo credit: Fresh produce on sale at a roadside market in Angonia Province, Mozambique (ILRI/Stevie Mann)

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)