Maize. Mozambique, Tete province, Pacassa village (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

In sub-Saharan Africa, contamination of dairy feed with mycotoxins has been frequently reported. Mycotoxins pose a threat to animal health and productivity and are a hazard to human health as some mycotoxins and their metabolites are excreted in milk, such as aflatoxin M1.

A new review paper published in the journal Toxins (April 2020) describes the major mycotoxins, their occurrence and their impact in dairy cattle diets in sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting the problems related to animal health, productivity and food safety and the latest post-harvest mitigation strategies to prevent and reduce contamination of dairy feed with mycotoxins.

Kemboi, D.C., Antonissen, G., Ochieng, P.E., Croubels, S., Okoth, S., Kang’ethe, E.K., Faas, J., Lindahl, J.F. and Gathumbi, J.K. 2020. A review of the impact of mycotoxins on dairy cattle health: Challenges for food safety and dairy production in sub-Saharan Africa. Toxins 12(4): 222.

Photo credit: Maize crop, Pacassa village, Tete province, Mozambique (ILRI/Mann)

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.

Cattle being watered at the Ghibe River in southwestern Ethiopia

Cattle being watered at the Ghibe River in southwestern Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).


The successful eradication of rinderpest in 2011 offers vital lessons that can be applied in the ongoing quest to eradicate other deadly animal diseases.

In an opinion piece in SciDev.Net (16 Aug 2017), Delia Grace, co-leader of the Animal and Human Health program at the International Livestock Research Institute, shares her experiences as part of the global rinderpest eradication campaign.

Read the full article on SciDev.Net

Orma Boran cattle crossing a river in Kenya

Orma Boran cattle crossing a river in Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Rosemary Dolan).

The Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium is a research program that works to understand the relationships between ecosystems, zoonotic diseases, health and wellbeing in order to inform effective public health interventions.

Under this program, multidisciplinary country teams are studying four zoonotic diseases: henipavirus infection in Ghana, Lassa fever in Sierra Leone, Rift Valley fever in Kenya and trypanosomiasis in Zambia and Zimbabwe. The focus is on how changes in biodiversity, land use and climate affect disease transmission.

The development of irrigation schemes is thought to influence pathogen transmission in people and animals in several ways. For example, masses of stagnant water and high humidity support the development of disease vectors like mosquitoes. In addition, irrigated areas are likely to have a higher density of animal hosts like chicken and small ruminants.

In order to investigate the influence of irrigation and changes in biodiversity on the distribution of zoonoses, a cross-sectional study was carried out in Tana River County, Kenya, home to the Hola Irrigation Scheme. The zoonoses of interest were Rift Valley fever, Q fever, brucellosis, West Nile virus, dengue fever and leptospirosis.

Irrigation causes a decline in biodiversity as wildlife habitats are cleared to make way for crop agriculture. However, the linkages between biodiversity and disease risk remain unclear. It was also found that areas with a rich diversity of hosts have higher prevalence of multiple zoonotic pathogens as compared to areas with lower host diversity.

The study also found that while irrigated areas are infested with multiple species of mosquitoes (including primary vectors of Rift Valley fever), their high population densities alone are not enough to sustain the transmission of pathogens; reservoir hosts (for example, birds for West Nile virus) or other persistence mechanisms are required.

These and other findings from the study were presented at the 49th annual scientific conference of the Kenya Veterinary Association which was held in April 2015.

View the presentation, Land use, biodiversity changes and the risk of zoonotic diseases: Findings from a cross-sectional study in Tana River County, Kenya

In April 2010, Miyazaki prefecture in Southwest Japan experienced an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, one of the most contagious animal diseases. Although the outbreak was successfully contained in just four months, by July 2010 there were 292 cases and 300,000 cows and pigs had been slaughtered. This resulted in an economic loss of about 2 billion US dollars.

In addition to the economic impact of the epidemic, the mental and psychosocial well-being of individuals and the community at large was also affected. For example, the sudden death of large numbers of animals caused considerable mental stress among farmers as well as the veterinarians and municipal government teams involved in the slaughter and disposal of infected cattle and pigs.

Restrictions on movement were imposed as part of efforts to prevent the disease from spreading; this led to stress-related symptoms among some residents, particularly the elderly. In addition, many farmers experienced depression and anxiety about the future following the loss of their livelihoods.

Recognizing the multiple impacts of the disease epidemic, a coordinated multisectoral approach was adopted, under the One Health concept, to tackle the disease as well as manage the mental health and psychological well-being of the residents of Miyazaki.

In a video titled Responding to an animal disease epidemic: Lessons from Miyazaki, various stakeholders who were involved in responding to the epidemic reflect on the usefulness of a One Health approach in helping to successfully respond to and overcome the challenges of the disease outbreak.

Featured in the video is Kohei Makita, an associate professor of veterinary epidemiology at Rakuno Gakuen University who is on a joint appointment at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Makita and colleagues had earlier published work on the collaborative response of veterinary and psychiatry experts to the 2010 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

The video was produced by the World Bank Tokyo Development Learning Center, the United Nations University International Institute for Global Health, the National Center for Neurology and Psychiatry, Japan and Rakuno Gakuen University.

ILRI graduate fellow Taishi Kayano collects milk samples from a Kenyan dairy farm

ILRI graduate fellow Taishi Kayano collects milk samples from a Kenyan dairy farm as part of a qualitative survey on aflatoxins in the dairy chain in Kenya. (photo credit: ILRI/Taishi Kayano).

In January 2013, an international, multidisciplinary team of five upcoming researchers undertook a scoping survey of aflatoxins in the feed-dairy chain in Kenya as part of activities of the project, “Measuring and mitigating the risk of mycotoxins in maize and dairy products for poor consumers in Kenya” (MyDairy project).

The team comprised Kenyan PhD students Anima Sirma and Daniel Senerwa, American intern Calvin Pohl, Japanese veterinary student Taishi Kayano and Kenyan postdoctoral scientist Teresa Kiama.

They visited nine districts and 27 villages in rural Kenya where they led participatory rapid appraisals on dairying and aflatoxins and held focus group discussions with women dairy farmers.

In addition, all the communities visited were given information and training on safe handling and storage of milk and animal feed.

The qualitative part of the survey collected data on the type of feeds, milk yield and the storage period for milk and feed, among other variables.

Samples of milk and feed were also collected for laboratory analysis to investigate the association between the condition of cattle and the prevalence of aflatoxin in milk.

The results of the qualitative survey are being analyzed but preliminary findings show that the surveyed farmers use a variety of feeding practices for their dairy cattle and most of the milk is marketed in the informal sector as raw, unprocessed milk.

Recalling his field research experience as an ILRI graduate fellow, Kayano had this to say:

“I visited farmers with livestock officers or chiefs in the districts. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to get meet the local farmers and collect the milk and feed samples.

“They also helped to identify the precise locations of the dairy farms; this was very useful as there are no detailed maps of dairy farms.

“The livestock officers also translated our questionnaires from English to Kiswahili which was a key step in acquiring the data needed for the study.

“An internship at ILRI is a really good opportunity for students who would like to work on a short-term basis in an international research institution and to experience doing research in a developing country context.”

Read more about the MyDairy project

Maasai father and son tend to their cattle in Kenya

Maasai father and son tend to their cattle in their paddock in Kitengela, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Brucellosis, also referred to as undulant fever, is a highly contagious zoonotic disease caused by the microorganism Brucella which infects multiple animal species including cattle, sheep, pigs, small ruminants, camels, water buffaloes and yaks.

Brucellosis affects both humans and animals, causing chronic fever and joint and muscle pain in humans and abortion in animals.

Cases of brucellosis in humans are often linked to consumption of unpasteurized milk and soft cheese made from the milk of infected cows.

Brucella infection in some developing countries can reach 30% of the human population, making it a serious public health disease.

In response to the problem of this disease in Africa, some 60 animal health experts from across Africa, the United States and other countries gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 29 to 31 January 2013 for a workshop to discuss an integrated approach to controlling brucellosis.

The workshop aims to identify gaps in brucellosis epidemiology, diagnosis, surveillance and control programs.

This will assist in designing research programs and intervention strategies to aid in the control of brucellosis at national and regional levels.

Specific topics that will be addressed include:

  • Transmission of infection from animals to humans
  • Laboratory biosafety practices
  • Diagnostics assays, serology and organism identification
  • Vaccination strategies
  • Potential research collaborations

The workshop is co-organized by the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

It is sponsored by the US Department of State Biosecurity Engagement Program.

ILRI scientists Delia Grace, Eric Fèvre and Roger Pellé will attend the workshop.

Additional information is available on the USDA-ARS website