From the field
Livestock, Livelihoods and Health: a research update
Researchers from the Livestock Livelihoods and Health programme are investigating diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people (zoonoses). These diseases affect the health of animals and people and damage development prospects in poor countries, adding to their poverty burden. Two years into the programme, fieldwork in northern Tanzania is now advanced and results, which will help to inform interventions in the region and beyond, are coming in.
Our multidisciplinary, One Health, approach to research is revealing the nature of the connectivities between animal and human health. Understanding these is vital for determining where interventions aimed at reducing disease risk might be best targeted.
"What we're beginning to understand is how critically important the role of livestock movements and livestock contact networks are in terms of not only driving the disease risks for livestock but also how that plays out in terms of human disease risks."
The SEEDZ project aims to identify and assess the social, economic and environmental drivers of brucellosis, Rift Valley fever and Q fever – and in doing so to contribute to an evidence base for better disease control in policy and practice.
Our focus group research in northern Tanzania has revealed that people make an important distinction between milk and mtindi, a form of yoghurt most often made from raw milk. As the majority of dairy products are consumed by people as mtindi, this could explain why there is a prevalence of brucellosis and other zoonoses in the area despite most people saying, when asked, that they always cook their milk before consuming it.
"By exploring people's behaviour, giving them the opportunity to discuss rather than just answer closed questions, we get much more useful information."
The SEEDZ project is a multidisciplinary endeavour, involving both natural and social scientists. This is part and parcel of its One Health approach, in which human, animal and environmental health are understood to be inter-related.
Our analysis of slaughterhouses, slaughter slabs and animal carcasses has found only low levels of disease-causing bacteria. Much higher levels have been found in meat samples taken from butchers, restaurants and informal eateries. This is important evidence of where contamination most likely occurs and can be used to inform public health campaigns.
"Somewhere between the actual slaughter itself and the sale of meat, there is contamination of the product."
The HAZEL project is undertaking research into disease risk from meat. Its aim is to identify areas for improvement in food safety policy and practice.
A febrile (fever) surveillance platform has now been established at Endulen Hospital, in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Results are revealing the extent of brucellosis and other bloodstream infections in the area.
Our statistical analysis of disease transmission information is also offering up vital information for determining which animals should be targeted when implementing control measures for brucellosis.
"New modelling approaches are helping us understand better which animals are infecting humans, and it looks like sheep and goats are responsible for more [brucellosis] exposure in people than cattle."
The Brucella project is seeking a better understanding of the spread and control of brucellosis. The aim is to provide an evidence base which can inform a control policy, including possible livestock vaccination strategies.
Livestock, Livelihoods and Health