New livestock maps pinpoint ‘danger zones’ for possible spread of deadly H7N9 strain of bird flu

“H7N9 can spread very quietly throughout the poultry population. The main use of the maps is to target surveillance, I think these maps can show areas where there’s a high chance of the disease flaring up if it arrives”.—Tim Robinson . . . .

ILRI Clippings

Feeding poultry, Bangladesh. Photo by WorldFish, 2006

Feeding poultry in Bangladesh (photo on Flickr by WorldFish).

A recent paper that maps the global distributions of the world’s major livestock species has already been used to advance understanding of where surveillance efforts should be targeted to prevent the possible spread of a lethal bird flu virus now circulating in poultry populations in China, where it has killed 62 people. The original mapping work, led by Tim Robinson, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and published at the end of May, was immediately put to practical use in locating large regions in South and Southeast Asia that would suit the new lethal virus. Ominously, unlike H5N1, a viral strain of bird flu that has killed millions of poultry and at least 359 humans since its first appearance in 1987, H7N9 does not cause severe illness in the chickens it infects, making it much more difficult to detect, and…

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New video gives overview of ILRI research on prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases


A new 3-minute video presents an overview of the work that the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is doing towards the prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases.

This is one of the key themes of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, which is led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

This CGIAR Research Program was started in 2012 to investigate the links between agriculture, nutrition and health in poor nations.

The program aims at improving the nutritional and health benefits of the farming sector while mitigating the risks posed by diseases that are spread through food and water, as well as those that can be passed from animals to people (zoonotic diseases).

In addition to a focus on agriculture-associated diseases, it also carries out research on food value chains, biofortification, and integrated development policies and programs on agriculture, nutrition…

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Experts call for One Health approach to tackling zoonotic diseases


Cattle herded home in the evening in Mozambique Cattle coming in from the fields in the evening in Lhate Village, Chokwe, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

A group of research experts associated with the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium have called for a system-based ‘One Health’ approach to help catalyze better preparedness and surveillance that are informed by cross-disciplinary approaches.

One Health is a globally recognised approach established to promote the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines, working locally, nationally and globally, to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.

Writing in an Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Rapid Response Briefing titled Zoonoses – From Panic to Planning (January 2013), the researchers also note that One Health could help “accelerate research discoveries, enhance the efficacy of response and prevention efforts, and improve education and care”.

However, realigning policy to embrace One Health requires a shift in focus from the current disease-centred approach to one that…

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International workshop to discuss an integrated approach to controlling brucellosis in Africa


Maasai father and son tend to their cattle in Kenya Maasai father and son tend to their cattle in their paddock in Kitengela, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Brucellosis, also referred to as undulant fever, is a highly contagious zoonotic disease caused by the microorganism Brucella which infects multiple animal species including cattle, sheep, pigs, small ruminants, camels, water buffaloes and yaks.

Brucellosis affects both humans and animals, causing chronic fever and joint and muscle pain in humans and abortion in animals.

Cases of brucellosis in humans are often linked to consumption of unpasteurized milk and soft cheese made from the milk of infected cows.

Brucella infection in some developing countries can reach 30% of the human population, making it a serious public health disease.

In response to the problem of this disease in Africa, some 60 animal health experts from across Africa, the United States and other countries gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 29 to 31 January 2013 for a workshop…

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Commercialisation of livestock agriculture in Africa: Challenges and opportunities

ILRI Clippings

For too long, the potential of the livestock sector in Africa has not received the attention it deserves. Policies and other institutions promoting livestock development have been weak or absent in most African countries.  Commercialization has not been a focus and livestock production remained predominantly subsistence-oriented. Commercially oriented animal production systems are more likely to respond to demand and price signals, thus allocating scarce resources more efficiently. Commercial orientation is also likely to have a more sustainable effect in increasing incomes and improving food security. Hence, it is crucial for Africa to develop policies, strategies and programs that address constraints to the commercialization of its animal agriculture. These interventions should consider the entire value chain, including input delivery, production, processing, marketing and distribution.

In the past, the debate on the type of appropriate interventions for the improvement of livestock in Africa was limited to technical innovations to enhance production and…

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Aflatoxins: New briefs disclose the threat to people and livestock and what research is doing about it

Increased urbanization, coupled with an upsurge in urban livestock rearing, could increase the vulnerability of animals and animal products to aflatoxin contamination, said Lindahl.

ILRI Clippings

Improper maize cob for harvesting

A damaged maize cob that, if harvested with clean cobs, can contaminate all the cobs with aflatoxins (photo credit: Joseph Atehnkeng/IITA).

‘The UN World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that billions of people in the developing world are chronically exposed to aflatoxin, a natural poison on food crops which causes cancer, impairs the immune system, inhibits growth, and causes liver disease as well as death in both humans and animals.

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) aflatoxins contaminate one-quarter of the global food supply and over half the world’s population; 4.5 billion people are exposed to high, unmonitored levels, primarily in developing countries. In sub-Saharan African alone, an estimated 26,000 people die annually of liver cancer associated with aflatoxin exposure.

‘Aflatoxins not only pose serious health risks, but are believed to be detrimental to efforts to improve food security and international food trade.

‘According to the UN Food and Agricultural…

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Steps to sustainable livestock

Science on the Land

Here are thoughtful, readable words about sustainable livestock. These words were published a few days ago in the well-respected journal Nature. There, scientists including Prof Sir John Beddington (formerly our UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor) tell us how, ‘With improved breeding and cultivation, ruminant animals can yield food that is better for people and the planet.’

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