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New consortium to investigate environmental changes spreading diseases between animals and people in Africa

Malawi farmer

Malawi crop-and-livestock farmer (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

One of the drivers of disease in Africa, a continent with a particularly heavy disease burden, are environmental changes that help to spread infectious pathogens between animals (both wild and domestic) and people. That is why the start of a new research program, in which the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is participating, to investigate these links is good news.

‘An innovative £3.2m research programme exploring the connections between ecosystems, health and poverty in Africa has begun at the STEPS Centre and 16 other research institutes in Africa, Europe and the US.

‘The Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium (DDDAC) brings together natural and social scientists in a unique partnership to embark upon an integrated approach to understanding zoonoses—those diseases which pass from animals to humans.

‘More than 60% of emerging infectious diseases over the past few decades have been zoonotic. While some quietly decimate poor people’s lives and their livelihoods, others have the potential to create dangerous global threats. . . .

”Through fieldwork and modelling work, DDDAC researchers will generate vital new knowledge on the impacts on zoonotic disease of ecosystem change such as climate change and habitat loss, ecology, and the interactions between humans and animals. . . .

‘Funded by Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) for three and a half years, the DDDAC will see environmental, biological, social, political, and human and animal health scientists working on four zoonotic diseases, each affected in different ways by ecosystem changes and having different impacts on people’s health, wellbeing and livelihood.

These are:

  • Lassa fever in Sierra Leone
  • Henipa virus in Ghana
  • Rift Valley fever in Kenya
  • Trypanosomiasis in Zambia and Zimbabwe

The DDDAC partners are:
In the UK: STEPS Centre; University of Cambridge; Institute of Zoology, London; University of Edinburgh; and University College, London.
In Ghana: Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, University of Ghana.
In Kenya: International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi; Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI); and the University of Nairobi.
In Sierra Leone: Kenema Government Hospital; and Njala University.
In Zambia: the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries; and the University of Zambia.
In Zimbabwe: the Ministry of Agriculture; and the University of Zimbabwe.
The Stockholm Resilience Centre and Tulane University, US, are also DDDAC partners.

ESPA is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Read the whole article at the Institute of Development Studies website: ‘STEPS convenes multidisciplinary research team to tackle animal-to-human disease transmission’, 19 Mar 2012.

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