Endemicity of zoonotic diseases in pigs and humans in lowland and upland Lao PDR: Identification of socio-cultural risk factors

In Lao People’s Democratic Republic pigs are kept in close contact with families. Human risk of infection with pig zoonoses arises from direct contact and consumption of unsafe pig products. This cross-sectional study was conducted in Luang Prabang (north) and Savannakhet (central-south) Provinces. A total of 59 villages, 895 humans and 647 pigs were sampled and serologically tested for zoonotic pathogens including: hepatitis E virus (HEV), Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and Trichinella spiralis; In addition, human sera were tested for Taenia spp. and cysticercosis. Seroprevalence of zoonotic pathogens in humans was high for HEV (Luang Prabang: 48.6%, Savannakhet: 77.7%) and T. spiralis (Luang Prabang: 59.0%, Savannakhet: 40.5%), and lower for JEV (around 5%), Taenia spp. (around 3%) and cysticercosis (Luang Prabang: 6.1, Savannakhet 1.5%). Multiple correspondence analysis and hierarchical clustering of principal components was performed on descriptive data of human hygiene practices, contact with pigs and consumption of pork products. Three clusters were identified: Cluster 1 had low pig contact and good hygiene practices, but had higher risk of T. spiralis. Most people in cluster 2 were involved in pig slaughter (83.7%), handled raw meat or offal (99.4%) and consumed raw pigs’ blood (76.4%). Compared to cluster 1, cluster 2 had increased odds of testing seropositive for HEV and JEV. Cluster 3 had the lowest sanitation access and had the highest risk of HEV, cysticercosis and Taenia spp. Farmers which kept their pigs tethered (as opposed to penned) and disposed of manure in water sources had 0.85 (95% CI: 0.18 to 0.91) and 2.39 (95% CI: 1.07 to 5.34) times the odds of having pigs test seropositive for HEV, respectively. The results have been used to identify entry-points for intervention and management strategies to reduce disease exposure in humans and pigs, informing control activities in a cysticercosis hyper-endemic village.