New PNAS-published study discloses the ‘hot spots’, ‘warm spots’ and ‘cold spots’ of global livestock disease risk

Mozambique, Garue, Lhate village

Small-scale livestock-dependent agriculture in developing countries makes up one of three trajectories of global disease risk; here, cattle belonging to a widowed farmer in Garue, Mozambique, are brought in for the night by a herdsboy (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

‘Current drivers and future directions of global livestock disease dynamics’ is a special feature published in the (online) 16 May 2011 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the USA. The authors of the paper are Brian Perry, Delia Grace and Keith Sones.

Irish veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace leads a team researching animal health and food safety for trade at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Nairobi, Kenya.

In the PNAS paper, the authors write: ‘The current era of globalization is seeing unprecedented movements of people, products, capital and information. Although this has obvious implications for economies and ecosystems, globalization also affects the health of people and animals. This paper reviews changing patterns of livestock disease over the last two decades, discusses the drivers of these patterns, and plots future trajectories of livestock disease risk in an effort to capitalize on our understanding of the recent past and provide a guide to the uncertain future.’

While acknowledging the complexity of disease dynamics, the authors point to three main drivers of changing livestock disease dynamics: ecosystem change, ecosystem incursion, and movement of people and animals. Underlying these dynamics are the growing demand for livestock products (the Livestock Revolution) and increasing human population size.

The authors identify three trajectories of global disease dynamics:
‘(i) the worried well in developed countries (demanding less risk while broadening the circle of moral concern)
‘(ii) the intensifying and market-orientated systems of many developing countries, where highly complex disease patterns create hot spots for disease shifts
‘(iii) the neglected cold spots in poor countries, where rapid change in disease dynamics is less likely but smallholders and pastoralists continue to struggle with largely preventable and curable livestock diseases.’

On the topics of major trends in disease dynamics, the authors point out that ‘From a centuries-long and whole-world perspective, human wealth and health continue to improve, and animal health parallels this, showing an overall dramatic decline of infectious disease and shift to noncommunicable diseases. (This has been called the second epidemiological transition; the first epidemiological transition was 10,000 y ago, when human settlement led to a surge in zoonoses and crowd-related diseases.)’

However, the authors also say that ‘Although control and management of many endemic diseases in rich countries have improved, new diseases such as BSE and HPAI have emerged. Some consider that we face a third epidemiological transition of disastrous consequence in which globalization and ecological disruption drive disease emergence and reemergence; as occurred in the first epidemiological transition (associated with neolithic sedentarization and the domestication of livestock), the worst of the emerging diseases are likely to be zoonotic.’

The authors go on to consider ‘the drivers with greatest influence on livestock disease dynamics, namely increasing human population size and prosperity and the related demand-driven Livestock Revolution. . . . [W]e identify three overarching sets of animal diseases dynamics and associated control. Each system is facing different risks to livestock health, each has different determinants of disease status and capacity to respond, and each requires different approaches to resolve them.’

‘In the background,’ they say, ‘is the significant component of the world’s livestock enterprises in the hands of the very poor, for whom intensification is just not a realistic option and who are likely to be most vulnerable to disease resurgence. . . .

‘Although we call these [very poor livestock] systems cold spots for disease dynamics and emergence, they are inevitably hot spots for endemic diseases, periodic epidemics (such as Newcastle disease, which regularly wipes out village flocks), and neglected zoonoses, which significantly impact on human health. Because of the low densities of livestock, their remoteness, and the slow change in husbandry practices, these are probably not hot spots for emerging diseases. . . .

‘This review is prognostic rather than therapeutic, presenting implications for livestock disease in the 21st century. In an increasingly globalized world, deepening of the existing balkanization of livestock health status will create inevitable instability. The main challenges are (i) to speed the convergence of livestock health between the intensifying and intensified regions through improved coordination, communication, and harmonization and (ii ) to improve resilience of smallholder livestock systems, including the support of viable exits from livestock keeping.’

Read the whole paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Current drivers and future directions of global livestock disease dynamics, by Brian Perry, Delia Grace and Keith Sones, 16 May 2011.

Read an ILRI brief: Why animals matter to health and nutrition, February 2011.

Read another ILRI News Blog article related to this topic: Adapting agriculture to improve human health—New ILRI policy brief, 21 February 2011.

Read an ILRI news release: Livestock boom risks aggravating animal ‘plagues,’ poses growing threat to food security and health of the world’s poor, 2 February 2011.

Forestalling the next plague: Building a first picture of all diseases afflicting people and animals in Africa

Typical mixed crop-livestock farming of western Kenya

An ILRI-Wellcome project is investigating the disease pathogens circulating in both people and animals in the communities outside the border town of Busia, Kenya, where smallholders mix crop growing with livestock raising (photo credit: ILRI/Pye-Smith).

A project funded by the Wellcome Trust on zoonotic diseases was broadcast last week on an Australian television program called ‘Catalyst’. The show ran on Thursday, 10 March 2011, at 20:00 Australian time. The research described in the program is supported by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), where the project’s principal investigator, Eric Fevre, is hosted.

The television program interviews Fevre and his colleagues Lian Doble, a veterinarian managing laboratory work in western Kenya, and  Appolinaire Djikeng, technology manager of a Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, located on ILRI’s Nairobi, Kenya, campus.

Fevre and Doble and their team are investigating what disease pathogens of both people and animals are circulating near the border town of Busia, a very poor, densely populated area whose communities mix crop growing with livestock raising on small plots of land. Research such as this that is looking at both human and animal diseases is rare but urgently needed because the close relations of people and farm animals in many poor regions, as well as the existence of monkeys and other wildlife nearby, is a ‘recipe for diseases’ jumping from animals to people. If we’re going to manage to forestall another zoonotic plague such as bird flu or HIV/AIDS, we’re going to have to conduct more of such ‘one health’ investigations that look at exactly what diseases are being transmitted between animals and people. The research project in western Kenya is part of a larger study being conducted by the BecA Hub to look at diseases of animals and people across eastern Africa. The BecA Hub team is using genomics and meta-genomics, and ‘4 million bucks of computing power,’ to build a picture of the complex relations of disease pathogens circulating in the region.

Eric Fevre and pit latrine in Busia, Kenya

Eric Fevre, who leads the ILRI-Wellcome project investigating the disease pathogens circulating in both people and animals in Busia, points out a pit latrine frequented by pigs as well as people, where disease transmission between the two species is most likely to occur (photo credit: ILRI/Pye-Smith).

A transcript of the Australian television program on this research follows.

NARRATION
Africa, the cradle of humanity and renowned for its wildlife. It could also be the origin of the next global pandemic. It’s long been known that people and animals living close together—well, that’s a recipe for disease. But exactly which diseases? And if new diseases are creeping into the system? Well, that’s something they’re trying to find out here in western Kenya. They’re called zoonotic diseases: infections that can jump from animals to people.

Eric Fevre
There are lots of zoonotic infections. In fact, about 60 per cent of all human diseases are of zoonotic origin.

NARRATION
So this team headed by Eric Fevre is taking a much closer look at the health of people and livestock in a densely populated region of western Kenya.

Eric Fevre
It seems to be obvious that zoonotic infections will occur more in people who keep livestock than in those who don’t. Whether that’s the case has never been formally established.

Lian Doble
If you look around here you don’t see the cattle in a field, in a fenced field or in a barn away from the people. Cattle are tethered within the compound that everybody’s working in, the chickens are loose around, going in and out of the houses. It’s a much more integrated system than anything we really see at home.

NARRATION
The kinds of problems that this environment creates are readily apparent.

Eric Fevre
We’re in a mixed crop-livestock production system where people are keeping a few animals. And as you can see behind me here, it’s the rainy season and people have recently planted their new crops. And this is an area of interaction between the croplands and the animals. And you can see behind over there behind those fields is some forest. And there might be a watercourse flowing through that forest, for example, where the animals are going to water. And that’s where the exciting things happen from a disease transmission point of view.

NARRATION
Part of the team focus on human health, taking a range of samples from people in the village as well as a detailed account of their medical history and current living situation. Meanwhile, others in the team have a look at the livestock.

Lian Doble
What we do know is that there are a large number of diseases that circulate between animals and humans. The problem is that a lot of these diseases cause signs which are very similar to other human diseases like malaria and human tuberculosis. What isn’t known is actually how many of the diseases that are mainly diagnosed as malaria actually are another disease caused by the pathogens found in cattle. So we’re just trying to find out what diseases she has and what are shared with the people that she lives with.

Paul Willis
And does she look healthy?

Lian Doble
She’s feisty and she’s quite healthy so we’ll see what she might have been carrying. And we can tell you later in the lab.

NARRATION
Samples are taken back to field laboratories in the town of Busia on the Ugandan border.

The ILRI-Wellcome Trust laboratory in Busia, Kenya

The ILRI-Wellcome Trust animal-human laboratory in Busia, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Pye-Smith).

Eric Fevre
In this place we’ve got a human and an animal lab next door where we process the material that comes in from the field. One of the things that we really need to do is look at fresh material. Because once the samples get a bit old, the parasites become a bit difficult to identify. And the second important thing is that we of course feed back to the participants of our study. So results that we get in the lab here are used directly by the clinicians working in the field to decide what treatments they should be giving people. So that’s one of the direct ways that our research project feeds back into the community.

NARRATION
This detailed look at the community health of a whole region is showing many expected results, and a few surprises.

Eric Fevre
One of the diseases that we’re testing for is brucellosis. And looking at the official reports there isn’t any brucellosis in this region. But we have detected brucellosis both in animals and in people and so already that’s what’s telling us that there are things circulating here that official records don’t pick up.

NARRATION
There seems to be a lot of malaria around, but Eric’s team are finding that many cases are masking something much more sinister.

Eric Fevre
Often it won’t be malaria. It will be something else. And there are a multitude of different pathogens that cause fever of the type that malaria also causes. And that’s a real problem. Because somebody with a low income might need to, say, sell one of their animals to then go to the clinic, get a diagnosis, buy some anti-malarial drugs. They don’t work because the person actually has sleeping sickness. So they go back to a different clinic. Or to a traditional healer. They get drugs that don’t work for the infection that they have. And so on and so on, five, six, seven times, travelling maybe ten kilometres each time. That’s a huge economic burden on them. And then finally they get properly diagnosed when they’re in the late stage of their infection. And it would have been much easier to treat them if they’d have been caught earlier on.

NARRATION
It’s a very complex picture that is emerging, one that could be simplified by some basic technology.

Lian Doble
Thirty per cent of our participants don’t have access to a latrine. You can imagine what that means. And that’s something that could be very actually quite easily sorted out with some education and some money and would sort out all sorts of other diarrhoeal diseases, which are one of the huge killers of young children in Africa.

Biosciences eastern and central Africa hub platform

One of the ultra-modern laboratories at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub ‘platform’ hosted and managed by ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/White).

NARRATION
Back in Nairobi another team is taking a different look at the spread of diseases across east Africa.

NARRATION
Appolinaire Djikeng heads up a team collecting samples of animals and people from a wide swath across Kenya.

Appolinaire Djikeng
So essentially at the moment we are trying to cover the east African region. But of course we would like to once we establish our processes and data management skills and data analysis skills we like to expand this to other parts of Africa.

NARRATION
The first step in the labs is to figure out exactly what spread of diseases are present in their samples.

Appolinaire Djikeng
You are able to go in there, look at the, the complex composition of the viruses, at the pathogens or at the small organisms that exist in them in doing it that way you are able to come up with a catalogue of potential organisms that exist in there.

NARRATION
And this analysis goes deep into the DNA of the viruses and pathogens that are found, tracking minute changes in their genetic make-up that allows Appolinaire’s team to follow the spread of individual strains of a disease.

Appolinaire Djikeng
We have a reasonably good bioinformatic infrastructure here for storing that data and extracting them, looking at specific parameters from that particular data base. With so many samples from such a wide geographical area and with so much information for each individual sample these guys are dealing with a lot of data and so they brought in four million bucks worth of computing grunt. With so many samples from such a wide geographic area and with so much information for each individual sample these guys are dealing with a lot of data. So they brought in four million bucks worth of computing grunt.

NARRATION
There are several teams looking at zoonotic diseases in Kenya, but the impact of their work is global.

Appolinaire Djikeng
The threat of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases are no longer restricted to countries like central Africa or sub-Saharan Africa So I think now we have to put this work in the context of the global effort across the world. Trying to make sure that even remote parts of the area do have resources and capabilities to begin to do good and accurate diagnostics of what could be emerging.

Eric Fevre
We actually use the data that we gather to, to try and understand how these things are being transmitted, how the fact that your animal has this disease impacts on your risk at a population scale. And, and use that to then try and understand the, the process of transmission of these diseases.

Lian Doble
The next big disease problem is very likely to be a zoonotic disease so doing this sort of work and then leaving it isn’t an option. It needs to be ongoing and, and build. This is the start of something and we’ll build on it from here.

Download this Catalyst show from Australia’s ABC website (select ‘Zoonosis’ 10/3/2011).

And check out a blog by Paul Willis about the adventures of filming in Kenya’s border town of Busia: Coming to an end, 7 March 2011.

Here’s some of what Paul Willis has to say in his blog about this film project:
‘Busia is a hard place; a border crossing town riddled with grinding poverty and hard living. The main street, the only sealed road through town, is frequently clogged with a seemingly endless string of trucks waiting to cross the border into Uganda. Because Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are all landlocked nations, every drop of fuel and most freight coming into the country has to be trucked in from Mombasa and most of that comes through Busia. . . . This area of Kenya has some of the most intensively farmed land in East Africa. The whole landscape is divided into small plots with clusters of mud and thatch huts scattered among them. Here people live cheek-by-jowl with their crops and animals. It’s a recipe for diseases to jump from animals to people. Add strips of forested vegetation inhabited by a variety of monkeys and other native mammals and the chances of new diseases leaping into the human population goes up dramatically. We’re here to report on the work of a dedicated group trying to get a handle on exactly what diseases are in this chaotic system. It’s hard work, in one of the hotter areas of Kenya, and the study is spread over a huge area. . . .’

Adapting agriculture to improve human health–new ILRI policy brief

A sleeping sickness patient in Soroti, Uganda

A child with sleeping sickness undergoes lengthy recovery treatment at a sleeping sickness clinic in Soroti, Uganda (photo credit: ILRI).

John McDermott, a Canadian deputy director general for research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and a veterinary epidemiologist by training, and Delia Grace, an Irish veterinary epidemiologist working in food safety and many other areas of livestock health, have written a new policy brief on agriculture-associated diseases.

This policy brief has recently been disseminated by McDermott and Grace at an international conference on the agriculture, nutrition and health interface in New Delhi and a conference on the ‘One Health’ approach to tackling human and animal health, held in Melbourne.

McDermott and Grace argue that the way we approach agriculture does not serve human interests as a whole. ‘In the past, agricultural research and development largely focused on improving the production, productivity and profitability of agricultural enterprises. The nutritional and other benefits of agriculture were not always optimized, while the negative impacts on health, well-being and the environment were often ignored. This was especially problematic for livestock systems, with especially complex negative and positive impacts on human health and well-being.’

They give as an example a side effect of agricultural intensification: disease. ‘Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a notorious example of a disease that was fostered by intensified agricultural production and spread through lengthened poultry value chains and the global movement of people and animals. Large-scale irrigation projects, designed to increase agriculture productivity, have created ecosystems conducive to schistosomiasis and Rift Valley fever.’

And the reason we fail to foresee the negative effects of some agricultural practices, they say, is because the responses to disease threats are often compartmentalized. ‘Instead of analysing the tradeoffs between agricultural benefits and risks, the agriculture sector focuses on productivity, while the health sector focuses on managing disease. A careful look at the epidemiology of diseases associated with agriculture, and past experience of control efforts, shows that successful management must be systems-based rather than sectorally designed.’

‘At least 61% of all human pathogens are zoonotic (transmissible between animals and people),’ they write, ‘and zoonoses make up 75% of emerging infectious diseases. A new disease emerges every four months; many are trivial, but HIV, SARS, and avian influenza illustrate the huge potential impacts. Zoonoses and zoonotic diseases recently emerged from animals are responsible for 7% of the total disease burden in least-developed countries.

‘As well as sickening and killing billions of people each year, these diseases damage economies, societies and environments. While there is no metric that captures the full cost of disease, assessments of specific disease outbreaks suggest the scale of potential impacts. . . .

‘. . . There are two broad scenarios that characterize poor countries. At one extreme are neglected areas that lack even the most basic services; in these “cold spots,” diseases persist that are controlled elsewhere, with strong links to poverty, malnutrition and powerlessness. At the other extreme are areas of rapid intensification, where new and often unexpected disease threats emerge in response to rapidly changing practices and interactions between people, animals and ecosystems. These areas are hot spots for the emergence of new diseases (of which 75% are zoonotic). They also are more vulnerable to food-borne disease, as agricultural supply chains diversify and outpace workable regulatory mechanisms.

‘. . . What cannot be measured cannot be effectively and efficiently managed. Addressing agriculture-associated disease requires assessing and prioritizing its impacts, by measuring not only the multiple burdens of disease but also the multiple costs and benefits of potential interventions—across health, agriculture and other sectors. . . .

‘But these assessment tools and results have rarely been integrated to yield a comprehensive assessment of the health, economic and environmental costs of a particular disease. . . .

‘The complexities of agriculture-associated diseases call for more integrated and comprehensive approaches to analyse and address them, as envisioned in One Health and Eco- Health perspectives . . . . These integrated approaches offer a broad framework for understanding and addressing complex disease: they bring together key elements of human, animal and ecosystem health; and they explicitly address the social, economic and political determinants of health. Both of these global approaches recognize agriculture- and ecosystem-based interventions as a key component of multi-disciplinary approaches for managing diseases. For example, food-borne disease requires management throughout the field-to-fork risk pathway. Zoonoses in particular cannot be controlled, in most cases, while disease remains in the animal reservoir. Similarly, agriculture practices that create health risks require farm-level intervention.

‘Systemic One Health and EcoHealth approaches require development and testing of methods, tools and approaches to better support management of the diseases associated with agriculture. The potential impacts justify the substantial investment required. . . .

‘As a basis for framing sound policies, information is needed on the multiple (that is, cross-sectoral) burdens of disease and the multiple costs and benefits of control, as well as the sustainability, feasibility and acceptability of control options. An example of cross-disciplinary research that effectively influenced policy is the case of smallholder dairy in Kenya. In the light of research by ILRI and partners, assessing both public health risks and poverty impacts of regulation, the health regulations requiring pasteurization of milk were reversed; the economic benefits of the change were later estimated at USD26 million per year. This positive change required new collaboration between research, government and non-governmental organizations and the private sector, as well as new ways of working . . . .

‘Many agriculture-associated diseases are characterized by complexity, uncertainty and high-potential impact. They call for both analytic thinking, to break problems into manageable components that can be tackled over time, and holistic thinking, to recognize patterns and wider implications as well as potential benefits.

‘The analytic approach is illustrated in the new decision-support tool developed to address Rift Valley fever in Kenya. In savannah areas of East Africa, climate events trigger a cascade of changes in environment and vectors, causing outbreaks of Rift Valley fever among livestock and (ultimately) humans. Improving information on step-wise events can lead to better decisions about whether, when, where and how to institute control . . . .

‘An example of holistic thinking is pattern recognition applied to disease dynamics, recognizing that emerging diseases have multiple drivers. A synoptic view of apparently unrelated health threats—the unexpected establishment of chikungunya fever in northern Italy, the sudden appearance of West Nile virus in North America, the increasing frequency of Rift Valley fever epidemics in the Arabian Peninsula, and the emergence of bluetongue virus in northern Europe—strengthens the suspicion that a warming climate is driving disease expansion generally.

‘Complex problems often benefit from a synergy of various areas of expertise and approaches. . . . Complex problems also require a longer term view, informed by the understanding that short-term solutions can have unintended effects that lead to long-term problems—as in the case of agricultural intensification fostering health threats. . . .

‘New, integrative ways of working on complex problems, such as One Health and EcoHealth, require new institutional arrangements. The agriculture, environment and health sectors are not designed to promote integrated, multi-disciplinary approaches to complex, cross-sectoral problems. But many exciting initiatives provide examples of successful institutional collaboration. . . .

‘Agriculture and health are intimately linked. Many diseases have agricultural roots—food-borne diseases, water-associated diseases, many zoonoses, most emerging infectious diseases, and occupational diseases associated with agrifood chains. These diseases create an especially heavy burden for poor countries, with far-reaching impacts. This brief views agriculture-associated disease as the dimension of public health shaped by the interaction between humans, animals and agro- ecoystems. This conceptual approach presents new opportunities for shaping agriculture to improve health outcomes, in both the short and long terms.

‘Understanding the multiple burdens of disease is a first step in its rational management. As agriculture-associated diseases occur at the interface of human health, animal health, agriculture and ecosystems, addressing them often requires systems-based thinking and multi-disciplinary approaches. These approaches, in turn, require new ways of working and institutional arrangements. Several promising initiatives demonstrate convincing benefits of new ways of working across disciplines, despite the considerable barriers to cooperation.’

Read the whole ILRI policy brief by John McDermott and Delia Grace: Agriculture-associated diseases: Adapting agriculture to improve human health, February 2011.

Kenya study finds prototype tsetse-repellent technology does not sufficiently protect cattle under normal field conditions

Testing a tsetse-repellent technology

Cattle fitted with tsetse-repellent dispensers suspended from neck collars were used to test the effectiveness of a prototype tsetse repellent in preventing tsetse fly bites (Photo credit: ILRI/Bett).

Recently published findings from a study done among Maasai livestock in Kenya to test whether repellents can successfully reduce tsetse fly bites in cattle show that tsetse-repellent technologies may have some success in typical field conditions but do not yet offer a viable alternative for controlling trypanosomosis in field-based livestock.

The study, ‘Field trial of a synthetic tsetse-repellent technology developed for the control of bovine trypanosomosis in Kenya,’ was the first to evaluate the use of a mobile tsetse repellent in the field. It was conducted between April 2005 and August 2006 in Nkuruman, in Kajiado District, and Nkineji, in Narok District.

Trypanosomosis is the most pervasive and serious cattle disease in sub-Saharan Africa. It kills between three and seven million cattle each year and costs farmers millions of dollars in lost production and treatment costs. The disease is transmitted mainly by blood-feeding tsetse flies that infect susceptible animals with the causative trypanosome parasite during their feeding. Other trypanosome parasites can infect humans, causing sleeping sickness, a disease that attacks the central nervous system.

Animal trypanosomosis is difficult to control because its spread is influenced by many factors, including the age, sex and colour of the cattle at risk as well as the herd size, its geographical area and climate. Adult and male cattle, for example, are more likely to contract the disease than calves and females. And tsetse flies prefer to take their feeds from animals with dark coats.

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) researchers Bernard Bett, Tom Randolph and John McDermott participated in the evaluation, which was designed with the help of veteran African tsetse researchers Glyn Vale and John Hargrove, and Steve Torr of Greenwich University (UK). The evaluation involved 2000 cattle: 1000 formed the control group, while the other 1000 animals were fitted with tsetse-repellent dispensers suspended from neck collars. The effectiveness of the repellent was then monitored for 16 months.

The study stipulated at the outset that the repellent would be considered effective if it reduced the incidence of trypanosomosis by 50 percent or more in the repellent-treated animals versus the control animals. Failure to achieve this level of reduction would mean that the repellent technology was clearly not ‘a viable alternative to existing control techniques’.

Results from the trial showed that the technology reduces trypanosomosis infection rates only modestly. ‘The synthetic repellent reduced the incidence of the disease only by 18 percent,’ said Bett, the ILRI scientist who implemented the trial.

Bett went on to explain that the technology had been proposed for evaluation based on initial experiments using stationary cattle that suggested that the repellents could reduce infection rates by more than 80 percent. ‘Under typical field conditions, however,’ said Bett, ‘the repellent did not provide adequate levels of protection, so we are recommending that it not be considered for further commercial development at this point.’

That the effectiveness of the repellent in the field was lower than expected could be attributed to both the fragile nature of the repellent dispensers, which, sensitive to abrasions, often leaked, as well as the repellent itself. Tsetse flies, especially hungry ones, will alight even on animals that smell bad to them. This is why people, for example, whose odour should put off tsetse flies, still get bitten by them.

‘The earlier experiments might have also overestimated the benefit of the technology,’ said Bett. ‘Those initial experiments evaluated the reduction in numbers of flies feeding on tethered cattle; other flies, however, could bite quickly without feeding and still transmit the disease before the repellent drives them away. In addition, while flies mainly use odour to find a stationary cow, they use vision more than odour to guide them to moving animals, such as those in the pastoralist herds used in the field trial.’

The study found that many variables determine the effectiveness of the repellent technology. Among these are changes in grazing (during the dry season, herders tend to move their stock to pastures with higher densities of tsetse) and herd sizes (the larger the herd, the lesser are the chances that an individual animal within the herd will be bitten). Trypanosomosis incidence also differed in the two test districts. While cattle were the preferred hosts for the flies in Narok, the cattle in Kajiado came fifth in fly preference—after warthog, elephant, zebra and buffalo—which reduced the effectiveness of the repellent worn by the cattle.

Bett says that ‘the results of this study show that the tsetse-repellent technologies currently proposed are unlikely to be useful replacements of existing methods of controlling trypanosomosis.’ These include keeping indigenous ‘trypanotolerant’ cattle breeds, which can tolerate trypanosome infections without getting sick; treating sick animals with trypanocidal drugs to cure them of the disease; introducing sterile tsetse flies into an area to reduce its tsetse population; and controlling tsetse populations using pyrethrum-based insecticides.’

The findings of this study should help scientists improve their research on methods for controlling tsetse fly populations and the trypanosomosis they spread. ‘In the short term, however,’ says Bett, ‘we need to continue sensitizing livestock keepers on how to best use the existing control methods.’

‘We also urgently need to develop integrated strategies for controlling the fly and disease,’ concludes Bett, ‘so that we stop over-relying on popular interventions, such as regularly treating cattle with trypanocides, which will inevitably lead to drug resistance in the trypanosome parasites.’

Read the complete findings of the evaluation on this link http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2010.09.001

This blog entry by Tezira Lore, a communication specialist with ILRI’s Market Opportunities Theme, compares findings of this field trial with findings of other ILRI studies in typanosomosis.

Why technical breakthroughs matter: They helped drive a cattle plague to extinction

Community animal health worker vaccinating animals against rinderpest in Karamajong, Uganda

Tom Olaka, a community animal health worker in Karamajong, northern Uganda, was part of a vaccination campaign in remote areas of the Horn of Africa that drove the cattle plague rinderpest to extinction in 2010 (photo credit: Christine Jost).

A superb example of why technical breakthroughs matter is reported in the current issue (22 October 2010) of the leading science journal, Science.

The eradication of rinderpest from the face of the earth, probably the most remarkable achievement in the history of veterinary science, is a milestone expected to be announced in mid-2011 pending a review of final official disease status reports from a handful of countries to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

A plague of cattle and wild ungulates, rinderpest would not have been eradicated without such a technical breakthrough. This was the development of an improved vaccine that did not require a 'cold chain' and thus could be administered in some of the most inhospitable regions in the Horn of Africa, where the virus was able to persist due to lack of vaccination campaigns in these hotspots.

Rinderpest is a viral livestock disease that has afflicted Europe, Asia and Africa for centuries. It killed more than 90 per cent of the domesticated animals, as well as untold numbers of people and plains game, in Africa at the turn of the 19th century, a devastation so complete that its impacts are still felt today, more than a century later. The last-known outbreak of rinderpest occurred in Kenya in 2001.

The key technical breakthrough in this effort involved development of an improved vaccine against rinderpest. The original vaccine was developed at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) laboratories. In 1990, Jeffrey Mariner, a veterinary epidemiologist who at that time was at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and working with the Africa Union-Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), improved the vaccine by producing a thermostable version that did not require refrigeration up to the point of use. This allowed vets and technicians to backpack the vaccine into remote war-torn areas, where vet services had broken down and international agencies dared not send personnel. The AU-IBAR led the Pan-African Rinderpest Campaign, which coordinated the efforts that resulted in the eventual eradication of rinderpest from Africa.

Now working in the Nairobi laboratories of at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Mariner says that just as important as this technological advance was getting the development community to begin to address how people work together. Mariner and his colleagues at AU-IBAR themselves took three innovations as lessons from the rinderpest eradication campaign: (1) community-based vaccination programs, (2) participatory surveillance systems based on local knowledge, and (3) optimized control strategies that target high-risk communities through.

‘We must examine issues from the perspective of each group of stakeholders involved and visualize how proposed changes would affect them,’ says Mariner. ‘The power relationships of the groups also need to be considered. Advocates for change must then craft a new vision for how the various stakeholder groups will function that is sufficiently exciting to get people to risk change.’

Excerpts from the Science article, by Dennis Normille, follow.
'Rinderpest, an infectious disease that has decimated cattle and devastated their keepers for millennia, is gone. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced on 14 October in Rome that a 16-year eradication effort has succeeded and fieldwork has ended.

'“This is the first time that an animal disease is being eradicated in the world and the second disease in human history after smallpox,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said in his World Food Day address in Rome the next day.

'“It is probably the most remarkable achievement in the history of veterinary science,” says Peter Roeder, a British veterinarian involved with FAO’s Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP) from its launch in 1994 until he retired in 2007. For the veterinarians who participated in the effort, the achievement is particularly poignant. . . .

'One formality remains: The Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) still must complete the certification of a handful of countries as rinderpest free. OIE is likely to adopt an official declaration recognizing the demise of the disease at its May assembly. Meanwhile, animal-disease fighters have already been applying lessons learned from the rinderpest campaign and pondering which animal disease might be the next target for eradication.

'Although nearly forgotten in much of the West, as recently as the early 1900s, outbreaks of rinderpest—from the German for “cattle plague”—regularly ravaged cattle herds across Eurasia, often claiming one-third of the calves in any herd. The virus, a relative of those that cause canine distemper and human measles, spreads through exhaled droplets and feces of sick animals, causing fever, diarrhea, dehydration, and death in a matter of days. It primarily affects young animals; those that survive an infection are immune for life.

'When the virus hit previously unexposed herds, the impact was horrific. In less than a decade after the virus was inadvertently introduced to the horn of Africa in 1889, it spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, killing 90% of the cattle and a large proportion of domestic oxen used for plowing and decimating wild buffalo, giraffe, and wildebeest populations. With herding, farming, and hunting devastated, famine claimed an estimated one-third of the population of Ethiopia and two-thirds of the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania. . . .

'In 1994, when rinderpest was entrenched in central Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and a swath stretching from Turkey through India and to Sri Lanka, FAO brought together three regional rinderpest-control programs into GREP and set the goal of eliminating the disease by 2010. . . .

'The key technical breakthrough was the recognition that the virus was re-emerging from just a handful of reservoirs that could be the targets of intensive surveillance and vaccination campaigns. In 1990, Jeffrey Mariner, then at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine (now the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine), had developed an improved vaccine that did not require refrigeration up to the point of use. This allowed vets and technicians to backpack vaccine into remote areas. One of the reservoirs was in the heart of war-torn eastern Africa, where vet services had broken down and international agencies dared not send personnel. GREP relied on local pastoralists to track the disease and on trained community animal health workers to administer the vaccine to quell outbreaks.

'. . . The virus was last detected in 2001 in wild buffaloes in Meru National Park in Kenya, on the edge of the Somali ecosystem.

'What comes next? Some veterinary experts question whether the international community is ready to take on another massive eradication campaign, but one disease mentioned as a possible eradication target is peste des petites ruminants (PPR), which is highly contagious and lethal among sheep and goats. Related to the rinderpest virus, the PPR virus has long circulated in central Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent and has recently spread to Morocco. . . .'

ILRI's Jeff Mariner is now working on an improved vaccine for this disease.

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Read the whole article at Science (registration needed to read the full article): Rinderpest, deadly for cattle, joins smallpox as a vanquished disease, 22 October 2010.

To find out what the eradication of rinderpest means for livestock farmers around the world, listen to the following interview featuring John McDermott, ILRI's deputy director general.

Assessing animal diseases: New paper urges use of value chain analysis and information economics to understand animal disease impacts

Mozambique, Chokwe, Lhate village

Cows standing in the compound after grazing in Chokwe, Mozambique. A new study calls for improved integration between epidemiology and economics to understand economic and poverty impacts of animal diseases (photo credit: ILRI/Mann)

A new study by researchers working with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is recommending use of ‘bottom-up’ approaches that use the strengths offered by value chain analysis and information economics in assessing the impacts of animal diseases and their interaction with socio-economic and institutional factors in developing countries.

Authors Karl Rich, from the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and on joint appointment with ILRI and Brian Perry, an honorary professor of veterinary medicine at the Universities of Edinburgh and Pretoria and formerly a leader of ILRI’s research team on animal health and food safety for trade, say economists and epidemiologists need to work more closely in assessing the impact of animal diseases. They recommend use of ‘participatory disease surveillance’ approaches that feature models of disease assessment that consider the context in which animal diseases occur and how they affect markets, livelihoods and poverty reduction especially in developing countries where livestock serve diverse commercial and cultural roles which affect disease control efforts.

In a paper ‘The economic and poverty impacts of animal diseases in developing countries: New roles, new demands for economics and epidemiology’ published in the 15 September 2010, online edition of the Preventative Veterinary Medicine journal, the scientists say both value chain analysis and information economics hold particular promise and relevance towards animal disease impact assessment.

They note that ‘normative’ approaches that try to guide how agents affected by diseases should behave (for example by emphasizing elimination of disease while relegating issues of disease mitigation, equity, gender and poverty) have had limited success in reducing poverty and disease prevalence in developing countries. The scientists suggest that new models that consider the context decision makers, farmers and value chain actors face in the event of animal disease outbreaks and what they actually do (not only what they should do) will contribute to more effective pro-poor policymaking.

The paper also recommends harmonizing divergent incentives among different stakeholders in developing countries noting that, for example, integrating the views of political economy and institutions engaged in animal health research will help to focus more broadly and systematically on incentives and the behaviour of those institutions and political actors, thereby helping researchers to better understand the economic impact of diseases.

The paper reviews the livelihoods and poverty impacts of animal diseases in the developing world, with a focus on Rift Valley fever, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and foot and mouth disease. The paper also analyses the effects of these diseases through a poverty and value chains perspective and highlights ways that lessons from these perspectives can be aligned with disease control initiatives.

Rift Valley fever outbreaks are common in eastern Africa, especially after heavy rains, which lead to rises in numbers of mosquitoes that spread this viral zoonotic disease. Rift Valley fever affects cattle, sheep, goats and camels but also infects and kills humans. A recent outbreak of the disease between 2006 and 2007 killed more than 100 people in Kenya and led to significant loss of animals and livelihoods, especially for pastoralist livestock keepers.

Rich and Perry say the response of different stakeholders to diseases is based on their unique circumstances and constraints and their incentive for compliance also depends on such contexts. Their paper stresses the importance of ‘improved integration between epidemiology of disease and its relationships with economic behaviour.’

The authors call for a holistic look at the livestock sector as a system of interacting actors, each with their own values and constraints. They say that frameworks such as those offered by value chains can help identify the impacts that animal diseases generate. The  value chain framework’s emphasis on relationships, characteristics and dynamics among actors, can help identify not only who is impacted by animal disease but also how and why they are affected and how  different actors might behave and adjust in response to disease outbreaks.

To read the complete paper and its recommendation, click here

This piece is adapted from an original story posted on the Market Opportunities Digest blog written by Tezira Lore, communications specialist for ILRI’s Markets Theme.

New participatory initiative to involve local communities in disease control

A new approach to disease surveillance and control aims to unite human and animal medical approaches to better control disease spread and so improve public health.

In this 10-minute film from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), representatives of seven institutional members of a Participatory Epidemiology Network for Animal and Public Health (PENAPH), which includes researchers from ILRI, discuss ways of involving communities and health workers in the process of empowering local people.

The network uses participatory approaches to come up with effective ways of dealing with community challenges and encourages teamwork among farmers, veterinarians, nurses, doctors, governments and other specialists, especially in setting up effective disease surveillance systems.

US$4.4 million awarded for research to build a climate model able to predict outbreaks of infectious disease in Africa

Cow suffering from trypanosomosis

Scientists at the University of Liverpool, in the UK, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Kenya, are working with 11 other African and European partners on a US$4.4-million (UK£3 million-) project to develop climate-based models that will help predict the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases in Africa.

The researchers are working to integrate data from climate modelling and disease-forecasting systems so that the model can predict, six months in advance, the likelihood of an epidemic striking. The research, funded by the European Commission Seventh Framework, is being conducted in Ghana, Malawi and Senegal. It aims to give decision-makers the time needed to deploy intervention methods to stop large-scale spread of diseases such as Rift Valley fever and malaria, both of which are transmitted by mosquitoes.

It is thought that climate change will change global disease distributions, and although scientists know a lot about the climate triggers for some diseases, they don’t know much about how far into the future these disease events can be predicted. This new project brings together experts to investigate the links between climate and vector-borne diseases, including ‘zoonotic’ diseases, which are transmissible between animals and humans.

ILRI veterinary researcher Delia Grace says that diseases shared by people and animals are under-investigated although they are critically important for public health. ‘Fully 60% of all human diseases, and 75% of emerging diseases such as bird flu, are transmitted between animals and people,’ she said.

ILRI geneticist Steve Kemp said that the project is making use of ILRI’s advanced genomics capacities to analyse pathogens from the field and to integrate the data collected on both pathogen distribution and climatic factors. ‘From ILRI’s point of view,’ Kemp said, ‘this project is particularly exciting because it brings strong climate and weather expertise that complements systems recently built by ILRI and its partners to detect outbreaks of Rift Valley fever and to determine its spread.’

The new project also complements ILRI’s ongoing work to better control trypansomosis in West African livestock, a disease transmitted by tsetse flies. Trypanosomosis, which is related to sleeping sickness in humans, causes devastating losses of animals—along with animal milk, meat, manure, traction and other benefits—across a swath Africa as big as continental USA. Members of the new modeling project will conduct research in some of the same locations as ILRI’s West African trypanosomosis project, Kemp explained, and work with some of the same partner organizations, which should generate synergies that benefit both projects.

The risk of epidemics in tropical countries increases shortly after a season of good rainfall—when heat and humidity allow insects, such as mosquitoes, to thrive and spread diseases. Matthew Baylis, from Liverpool’s School of Veterinary Science, explained how this works with Rift Valley fever: ‘Rift Valley fever can spread amongst the human and animal population during periods of heavy rain, when floodwater mosquitoes flourish and lay their eggs. If this rainfall occurs unexpectedly during the dry season, when cattle are kept in the villages rather than out on the land, the mosquitoes can infect the animals at the drinking ponds. Humans can then contract the disease by eating infected animals. Working with partners in Africa, we can bring this information together to build a much more accurate picture of when to expect epidemics.

Andy Morse, from Liverpool’s School of Environmental Sciences, said the project combines historical and contemporary climate data with disease incidence information, including that for vector-borne diseases, as well as integrating monthly and seasonal forecasts. The resulting single, seamless, forecast system, Morse said, should allow projections of disease risk to be made beyond the conventional predictable time limit. ‘All this information will be fed into a decision-support system to be developed with decision-makers on national health issues’ in the three target countries.

The project was launched at a conference at the University of Liverpool on 19 April 2010.

For more information, contact ILRI scientist Steve Kemp. ILRI email contacts are formatted as follows: f.surname@cgiar.org: replace ‘f’ with the staff member’s first initial and replace ‘surname’ with the staff member’s surname.

The 13 research partners:
Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (Italy), Centre de Suivi Ecologique (Senegal), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (Spain), European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (UK), Fundació Privada Institut Català de Ciències del Clima (Spain), Institut Pasteur de Dakar (Senegal), International Livestock Research Institute (Kenya), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana), Universitaet zu Koeln (Germany), University Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (Senegal), University of Liverpool (UK), University of Malawi (Polytechnic & College of Medicine), University of Pretoria (South Africa)

Climate and health experts warn that scientists must work together, or risk ‘disastrous consequences’ to human and animal health in Africa

Consensus: Spread of Malaria, Rift Valley fever, and Avian flu far more likely if researchers continue to ‘operate in silos’ and if solutions ignore local conditions.

human and animal health in Africa  

Faced with the prospect of more variable and changing climates increasing Africa’s already intolerable disease burden, scientists must begin to reach out to colleagues in other fields and to the people they want to help if they hope to avert an expected “continental disaster,” according to leading climate, health, and information technology experts, who met in Nairobi last week.

Climate change will further increase the already high variability of Africa’s climate, fostering the emergence, resurgence and spread of infectious diseases. “A warmer world will generally be a sicker world,” said Prof. Onesmo ole-MoiYoi, a Tanzania medical, veterinary and vector expert. “We scientists need to adopt a new way of working, one that makes African communities bearing the burden of disease part of the solution rather than part of the problem.” The separate fields of human health, animal health, climate, vectors and environment must come together to avert a “continental disaster,” according to leading experts who attended the meeting.

Patti Kristjanson of ILRI, which hosted the meeting, agreed. “We need to do things differently than we have in the past. The impact of disease will increase if we continue to operate in silos. Our only chance at reducing the impact of deadly diseases in Africa is to increase collaboration across the disciplines of environment and health, and in a way that involves local communities. Failure to do so could lead to disastrous consequences.”

The experts concluded a three-day meeting sponsored by Google.org and organized by researchers from the IGAD Climate Predictions and Applications Centre (ICPAC), the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Google.org.

The meeting was one of the first on the continent to link climate and health researchers to reduce Africa’s infectious disease burden. The experts cited malaria, Rift Valley fever and bird flu as diseases poised to spread to new areas, along with an increasing threat of diseases such as Chikungunya and the emergence of as yet unknown disease pathogens, unless researchers, disease control workers and local communities share information and communicate faster and more strategically across their professions.

Prof. ole-MoiYoi of icipe and Kenyatta University stressed the importance of tapping the expertise of local communities. “By using bed-nets and anti-malarial drugs, and by removing the human-made breeding sites of mosquitoes, communities in the Kenyan Highlands have managed to stop recurrent malaria epidemics.”

“To combat disease, we need a holistic approach that involves local communities,” ole-MoiYoi said. “We can control malaria across Africa if we can divorce ourselves from the linear thinking that looks for ‘a’ solution and adopt an integrated approach.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO)estimates that changes to the earth’s climate are already causing five million more severe illness and more than 150,000 more deaths each year. By 2030, the number of climate-related diseases is likely to more than double.

Dr. Rosemary Sang, a researcher from KEMRI, described a case study of an outbreak of Rift Valley fever that claimed the lives of 155 Kenyans in late 2006 and early 2007. The virus is transmitted from livestock to people either through handling of infected animal material or by the mosquito vectors. Sang said the outbreak, which peaked 24 December, highlights most of the critical challenges researchers and health officials face in connecting data and advanced warnings to realities on the ground.

Kenya’s Garissa District, in the remote north-eastern corner of the country, experienced heavy rains and flooding starting in mid-October 2006, resulting in standing pools of water that became breeding sites for the mosquitoes that transmit Rift Valley fever. The first veterinary interventions did not take place until mid-January 2007, almost three months after the onset of the heavy rains, 2.5 months after mosquito swarms were reported, 2 months after the first livestock and 1.5 months after the first human cases were recorded, respectively.

"We need to move up our response times to these outbreaks,” said Sang. “All of the warning signs of an outbreak were there but we weren’t able to connect the dots.”

She cites poor tele-communication and roads in the region as major challenges. “Many of these areas lie outside mobile phone networks and far from health or veterinary clinics. As animals and then people began to get sick and die, the word didn’t get out fast enough.”

In the end, however, human and animal health officials, working together, were able to save the lives of more people in the 2006/07 outbreak than in the same region in 1998, when more than 600 people died from Rift Valley fever and millions of dollars were lost in livestock trade and tourism.

“The key is predicting outbreaks before they happen and preparing high-risk areas to act quickly to reduce the impact on communities,” said Sang.
Frank Rijsberman of Google.org called on technical experts to strengthen their capacity to predict and prevent infectious diseases. That will take more and better climate, vector, human and animal data, as well as more data sharing.

“The links between the climate and health research communities across Africa need to be strengthened,” Rijsberman said. “By sharing information we can stop some disease outbreaks and dramatically shorten our response time to others – which can not only save lives but also protect communities against subsequent severe economic losses.”

Mapping the way forward
The researchers pointed to climate models and new mapping software such as Google Earth and Health Map as useful tools for integrating vast amounts of environmental, health, and poverty data. “We’re working to identify the populations of people that are most vulnerable to disease and other external shocks,” said Phil Thornton of ILRI. “That includes communities that are at high risk for malaria because, for example, they are located both far from health clinics and near to water sources. We make these ‘vulnerability maps’ publicly available so that these high-risk communities can get the support they need to respond quickly and effectively to disease outbreaks.”

Google.org environmental scientist Amy Luers said better disease responses will also require tackling diseases at their root causes. “We scientists have to do a better job of informing the public of the underlying drivers of the spread of infectious diseases. The impacts of increasing populations and environmental degradation will require institutional and governance changes put in place for a ‘one health’ approach to human, animal and environmental well being.”

“We need to prepare now to avoid future catastrophe,” says Prof. ole-MoiYoi. “We are discovering that climate variability is playing a bigger and bigger role in the spread and severity of diseases across the globe. Our survival, and that of our environment, may depend on our joining hands to understand that environment. And our roles in it.”

Bird flu consultation

ILRI and IFPRI are convening a consultation in Nairobi from 14 to 16 June 2006 to determine how the research community can best assist developing countries in the fight against bird flu.
 
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) are convening a consultation to explore how research can support efforts to control the highly contagious avian influenza, with special emphasis on the needs of developing countries and the poor. The consultation is a response to requests from donors on priorities for targeting their research investments for Asia and Africa.

The consultation has four main objectives:

  1. To share the experiences of those in the front-line of avian influenza outbreaks to provide a realistic, objective, and up-to-date backdrop for the consultation.
  2. To identify and prioritize immediate service needs that research can provide in support of preparedness and emergency responses.
  3. To identify and prioritize medium-and long-term research needs.
  4. To develop an action plan and decide how to put it in place, including the possibility of forming an inter-institutional task force.

Much of the present effort in fighting bird flu is focused on immediate actions – emergency preparedness and response. The research community, however, also has a critical role to play in anticipating and addressing medium-and longer-term issues associated with bird flu in developing countries.

One of the greatest concerns is that bird flu could eventually become endemic in developing countries due to large poultry populations, weak infrastructure, scarce veterinary expertise and a general lack of resources. Poor poultry keepers in developing countries are also at a high risk of contracting bird flu, because they live in such close proximity to their livestock. Those who keep poultry and are desperately poor have the most to lose – and many may choose to save or eat sick chickens. This could put all family members and their other livestock at risk of contracting the deadly bird flu. The impacts on poor livestock keepers in Africa are highlighted in a recent article in the New Agriculturist.

New Agriculturist news article


 

Falling fowl of avian flu? New Agriculturist 1 May 2006

Members of the international development community wishing for more information about the ILRI-IFPRI Avian Influenza Consultation should contact Keith Sones ksones@africaonline.co.ke.

Further information about bird flu is available at ILRI’s Livestock in the News: Bird Flu page.

Increasing developing-country livestock trade without increasing disease

Livestock sellers in Mozambique

Are there opportunities for greater trade of livestock products from developing countries without increasing the risk of spreading animal diseases?

A new study from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suggests that there are and lays out a series of recommendations as to how they might be achieved. Livestock is one of the key assets of most developing countries, but compared to other agricultural products, this resource is currently significantly underutilised as a tool for poverty reduction. One of the reasons behind this is that many developing countries still harbour animal diseases that present a risk to the West, where diseases such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) and classical swine fever (CSF), to name but two, have been eradicated. Their reintroduction to countries free of these diseases has disastrous economic and environmental consequences. This dichotomy presents yet another example of the widening divide between developed and developing countries. So how can developing countries make better use of their livestock resources through greater market access in the world without putting developed countries at greater risk? This topic has been the subject of a study recently undertaken by ILRI on behalf of FAO, the report of which was released in July 2005.

Entitled ‘An appropriate level of risk: balancing the need for safe livestock products with fair market access for the poor’, the report questions some of the ground rules for safe international trade in livestock commodities, while at the same time identifying specific needs for human resource capacity development to safeguard the animal health and food safety integrity of livestock commodity value chains. Led by ILRI’s veterinary epidemiologist Brian Perry, the study identified some market successes, and some failures, in the regions of South East Asia, eastern and southern Africa and Central America, drawing from them some key lessons of global significance.

Read the complete report: http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/programmes/en/pplpi/docarc/wp23.pdf