A scoping review of zoonotic parasites and pathogens associated with abattoirs in Eastern Africa and recommendations for abattoirs as disease surveillance sites
Abattoirs are facilities where livestock are slaughtered and are an important aspect in the food production chain. There are several types of abattoirs, which differ in infrastructure and facilities, sanitation and PPE practices, and adherence to regulations. In each abattoir facility, worker exposure to animals and animal products increases their risk of infection from zoonotic pathogens. Backyard abattoirs and slaughter slabs have the highest risk of pathogen transmission because of substandard hygiene practices and minimal infrastructure. These abattoir conditions can often contribute to environmental contamination and may play a significant role in disease outbreaks within communities. To assess further the risk of disease, we conducted a scoping review of parasites and pathogens among livestock and human workers in abattoirs across 13 Eastern African countries, which are hotspots for zoonoses. Our search results (n = 104 articles) showed the presence of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and macroparasites (nematodes, cestodes, etc.) in cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, camels, and poultry. Most articles reported results from cattle, and the most frequent pathogen detected was Mycobacterium bovis, which causes bovine tuberculosis. Some articles included worker survey and questionnaires that suggested how the use of PPE along with proper worker training and safe animal handling practices could reduce disease risk. Based on these findings, we discuss ways to improve abattoir biosafety and increase biosurveillance for disease control and mitigation. Abattoirs are a ‘catch all’ for pathogens, and by surveying animals at abattoirs, health officials can determine which diseases are prevalent in different regions and which pathogens are most likely transmitted from wildlife to livestock. We suggest a regional approach to biosurveillance, which will improve testing and data gathering for enhanced disease risk mapping and forecasting. Next generation sequencing will be key in identifying a wide range of pathogens, rather than a targeted approach.