Vets working together to support poor farmers

I wonder how many of us believed the warnings when we started at vet school that in ten years’ time half of us would not be in vet practice? Certainly not me for sure.  As a member of the pre-James Herriott generation (only just mind!), I was sure that the only type of vet I wanted to be was in a nice mixed practice in England with nice clients, lots of equipment and medicines and a clean, warm building to work in. Not much chance of that growing up in Birmingham, but there you go – the innocence of youth! And then I discovered travel, the world outside and the needs of others where there is no guaranteed cosy home, food, water, health and medicine. And that is not just for animals, but for their owners too.

And so began a long journey for me through research and product development in industry to finally a place where I can think again about those early sights of the world out there. If I have learnt anything in that time, it is what an enormous variety of options there are available to us within the veterinary profession. Many more than to the poor livestock keepers that GALVmed was created to help. With the range of training that we are given, the skills that we can develop along the way and our lucky start in life, we are well-equipped to take on the complex animal health problems that abound in poorer parts of the world. On a day like World Veterinary Day, it is a good chance to remember our colleagues struggling with these issues around the world. We talk of ‘One Health’ a lot currently in the developed world, but in the developing world the link is so close between owners and their livestock in terms of survival that there is no need to remind anyone about the importance of veterinary input into human wellbeing.

So from the early days of my career practicing in England, to now having the opportunity to see veterinary medicine practiced in the field in Africa and South Asia, it is a lesson in the global nature of veterinary science, and an opportunity to celebrate the profession that binds us together, wherever we may have qualified or wherever we may now work. GALVmed is an organisation that relishes its role in bringing together academics, practitioners, product developers, policy makers and businesses to try to solve problems for poor farmers. In my mind, it’s an embodiment of a veterinary organisation with an important role in the world. Happy World Veterinary Day!

 

This year’s World Veterinary Day (25th April) is focusing on Vector-borne diseases with Zoonotic potential. Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are becoming a major public health concern in fact scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. At GALVmed, we work on a number of zoonotic diseases not only to protect livestock from these diseases but humans as well.

Tweet us your thoughts and share with us what World Veterinary Day means to you. @GALVmed #WorldVetDayFind out what World Veterinary Day means to others here.

The importance of World Veterinary Day and combatting zoonotic disease

This year, World Veterinary Day was celebrated on 25th April 2015. GALVmed joined the World Veterinary Association and others in the animal health sector to raise awareness of zoonotic diseases. GALVmed Senior Director for Policy and External Affairs, Dr Hameed Nuru, discusses the importance of World Veterinary Day and the increase of zoonotic diseases.

We need a game-changer for combating zoonotic diseases

Everyone’s talking about the importance of zoonotic disease. And, rightly or wrongly, it’s usually animals that get the blame for passing disease to man. But, despite the many conferences reflecting that buzz-word “One Health”, the real progress in, and commitment to, control of zoonoses  is disturbingly limited. Take the case of Porcine Cysticercosis – recognised by the World Health Organisation as an emerging and serious neglected zoonosis. Easy to control if you use a toilet, sadly prevalent across large parts of the world including South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa where sanitation remains a challenge.

Many pigs are infected. Their meat is sold in markets and may well transmit infection to man allowing the tape worm to establish itself. Eggs shed by the adult parasite residing in man can lead to accidental transfer and ingestion of eggs by others in close proximity. These develop and migrate to the brain, often causing epilepsy. Incidence of epilepsy is high in many villages where sanitary conditions are poor and pigs are present.

Control, through improved sanitation and judicious use of wormers, is possible. The work of Professor Lightowlers at the University of Melbourne, working in collaboration with GALVmed and Indian Immunologicals Ltd, offers the hope of a vaccine to break the cycle and control infection in pigs, thereby halting new infections in man. But how do you convince a pig owner to worm and vaccinate? It will cost him money and, since the disease causes no observable effects in his pig, he’ll see no benefit to himself.

It’s a classic case where a new model needs to be explored, combining the knowledge and skills of the veterinarian with those of the medical practitioner. Those skills exist, but now we come back to the challenge of who will pay. Animal health interventions are often based on economic benefit: reduced livestock mortality; improved productivity. Here the benefit to man is significant but indirect; a perfect opportunity for an innovative funding mechanism!

This year’s World Veterinary Day is focusing on Vector-borne diseases with Zoonotic potential. Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are becoming a major public health concern in fact Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. At GALVmed, we work on a number of zoonotic diseases not only to protect livestock from these diseases but humans as well. Tweet us your thoughts and share with us what World Veterinary Day means to you. @GALVmed #WorldVetDay

Smart partnerships to eradicate zoonotic diseases

Every local vet plays a critical role in animal and human health sectors, ensuring animal and human health on a daily basis. Similarly, every vet and paravet in the developing countries plays an equally important role of ensuring the health and well-being of many people’s precious assets – livestock.

Tropical diseases of which many are zoonotic diseases (transmittable between livestock and people) are a major public health concern in developing countries. Many of these diseases lack the focus from governments to begin understanding and combating these diseases and generally no effective and affordable medicine has been developed through research efforts in many cases.

In its most simple application, a regular dewormer in your dog and cat administered by or on the advice of your veterinarian will ensure both animal and human health. On a grander scale, veterinarians and other animal scientists are continuously involved in global research and development initiatives that will ultimately protect animals and humans from zoonotic diseases. When it comes to livestock, the process is sometimes not as straightforward, most of the administration of drugs and vaccines require specialised training, often done by veterinarians only. In some cases especially in remote areas of developing countries, these services are hard to come by usually putting the lives of the animals and humans at risk.

GALVmed, in partnership with the University of Melbourne and India Immunologicals Laboratory and with funding from the UK government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has begun to focus research and development on understanding and combating porcine cysticercosis in South Asia and Africa. International multi-site field trials, with the incorporation of the veterinary profession, are currently underway to establish the effectiveness of an anthelminthic and vaccine combination therapy in the reduction of prevalence of the disease in developing countries where the disease is rife.

Veterinarians involved in research and development projects ensure that these studies comply with current research practice standards to ensure the quality, reliability and integrity of results from the data. Such research and development can result in marketing approval of effective and safe new drugs. This drug combination research is expected to markedly reduce the prevalence of cysticercosis in pigs by prevention of infection through large-scale mass drug administration in pigs. With the pigs being protected from infecting human carriers, there will be a major reduction (and in time hopefully eradication) of infected pig meat that is the source of infection to humans. Through national mass drug administration programmes, this research and development undertaken with the expertise and knowledge of veterinarians in collaboration with development and funding partners will ultimately ensure the well-being of animals and people worldwide. We want to rid the world of cysticercosis, just like rinderpest!

 

This year’s World Veterinary Day is focusing on Vector-borne diseases with Zoonotic potential. Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are becoming a major public health concern in fact Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. At GALVmed, we work on a number of zoonotic diseases not only to protect livestock from these diseases but humans as well.

 

Tweet us your thoughts and share with us what World Veterinary Day means to you. @GALVmed #WorldVetDayFind out what World Veterinary Day means to others here.

 

A nice problem to have?

There is a lot of criticism being voiced about modern medicine and its limitations. This is clearly a nice problem to have. People have gotten so used to being protected from infectious diseases by vaccinations and antibiotics, to having broken bones fixed by surgeons under perfect anaesthesia, to having organs replaced and lost eyesight restored, that they take it for granted and only seem to notice the shortcomings of modern health care and to conveniently overlook the benefits of it. There are certainly diseases for which we haven’t found a cure yet or for which treatment methods are unpleasant and not always effective. But especially when it comes to parasitic diseases a lot of treatment options are available. If the parasites are carried to their hosts by other animals such as flies, mosquitoes or ticks, we talk about vector-borne diseases. Such diseases can be tackled by fighting the vector or the parasites, or both of them, which usually is quite efficient.

Yet despite all the progress we have made in developing treatments against these parasites and their vectors, some still remain a major threat to people and to the animals they keep. Malaria is probably the best known example of such diseases, but there are others out there. When diseases mainly affect animals and the animal owners can’t afford to pay for treatments, nobody seems to be interested in doing something about it. Animal African Trypanosomosis and East Coast Fever are good examples here. But at GALVmed we care. It is our mission to help poor livestock owners to get access to cost efficient vaccines and pharmaceutical products to protect their animals from diseases and premature deaths. This secures food and income and helps people to break the vicious circle of poverty.

And we go even further than that. Infectious diseases that travel between humans and animals can be devastating for one species, while being completely harmless for another. The tapeworm Taenia solium is one of these creatures who can very happily live in a pig without the pig even noticing it, whereas if it completes the wrong stages of its life cycle in humans, it can cause a lot of troubles, including epilepsy-type seizures. We have therefore started working on a programme to break this nasty parasite’s life cycle and get it out of pigs to prevent any further transmission to humans.

A critical part of such programmes is always the awareness about the disease. Motivating a farmer to treat his pigs when they aren’t even ill is a challenging task. That shows that a good veterinarian also has to be a good psychologist with superior persuasive powers. And it also shows that being a veterinarian is not only about animal health, but also about human health. This fact is unfortunately quite often overlooked.

Anyway, let’s not assume that having the nice problem of sophisticated hygiene standards and modern health care is common to all mankind. We still have a long way to go, so let’s keep going!

This year’s World Veterinary Day is focusing on Vector-borne diseases with Zoonotic potential. Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are becoming a major public health concern in fact scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. At GALVmed, we work on a number of zoonotic diseases not only to protect livestock from these diseases but humans as well.

Tweet us your thoughts and share with us what World Veterinary Day means to you. @GALVmed #WorldVetDayFind out what World Veterinary Day means to others here.

A call to my fellow vets

Will Rogers once said, “The best doctor in the world is a veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter– he’s got to just know!” World Veterinary day is celebrated all over acknowledging the important role vets play world over taking care of livestock, poultry and companion animals. In a country like India, vets have an even more important role as they can be the catalysts in improving livelihoods of poor people who are dependent on livestock. However, more often than not, the needs of the very poor when it comes to vet services are rarely addressed as there is a dearth of private vets in rural areas. Moreover, most public vets posted in rural areas, prefer to take care of livestock belonging to better off farmers e.g. dairy farmers or commercial poultry keepers while the very poor remain marginalised.

Therefore, as we mark this year’s World Veterinarian Day, I would like to call upon my vet colleagues to stay serving communities, however remote some may be, and be sensitive to the needs of all farmers- rich or poor, male or female. I would consider it a great achievement if we vets do our job with utmost selflessness, not forgetting the Veterinarians’ Oath that we took “to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health and the advancement of medical knowledge.”

This year’s World Veterinary Day is focusing on Vector-borne diseases with Zoonotic potential. Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are becoming a major public health concern in fact scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. At GALVmed, we work on a number of zoonotic diseases not only to protect livestock from these diseases but humans as well.

Tweet us your thoughts and share with us what World Veterinary Day means to you. @GALVmed #WorldVetDayFind out what World Veterinary Day means to others here.

Controlling zoonotic diseases requires coordinated efforts

A typical family in Africa is surrounded by animals whether domestic pets or livestock. In most cases, you will find that people who work in the cities have farms back home in the villages where they rear livestock. These are viewed as investments for when they retire. A case point is Karanja, a senior executive who works in Nairobi but has a family farm in Naivasha where he keeps cows, pigs and chickens. Karanja’s job involves frequent international travel but he relies on a farm hand and his younger brother to take care of the animals when he is not around. Back in the city, Karanja’s boy Otieno has a pet parrot, which he often takes with him to his father’s farm whenever they visit.

The life of Karanja’s immediate and extended family typifies the interrelationship between man, domestic animals and the environment. Whether through: the keeping of pets, wildlife tourism, global trade in plants and animals, increased consumption of improperly handled food or through climate change – humans face increased risk of zoonotic diseases in a globalised world.

Climate change influences factors that can enhance increased population and diversity of diseases carrying organisms i.e. vectors. This interaction between susceptible humans, host animals and the environment is now a subject of public health concern in view of increasing and emerging vector-borne zoonotic diseases such as Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis, Rift valley fever, Leishmaniasis etc. Vector-borne diseases are transmitted to humans by an animal (the vector). Such vectors include, for instance, arthropods like ticks and mosquitoes. However, vectors can also be any animal that can transmit a pathogen to a human host. Most vector-borne diseases are also zoonotic diseases i.e. they can transmit disease from animals to man. Veterinarians by virtue of their training are very critical in the control of animal diseases.

However, efforts to either prevent or control such diseases require harmonised, coordinated global approach among veterinarians, medical doctors, wildlife biologists, livestock farmers and community-based health workers; as well as effective early warning systems. The Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) facilitates sustainable access of resource-poor livestock producers to good quality and affordable, animal health products, vaccines and diagnostics through public-private partnership. By making animal health solutions available to poor livestock producers in developing countries, GALVmed is contributing to the control livestock diseases, especially vector-borne diseases, safer food and improved livelihood of livestock producers such as Karanja.

This year’s World Veterinary Day is focusing on Vector-borne diseases with Zoonotic potential. Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are becoming a major public health concern in fact scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. At GALVmed, we work on a number of zoonotic diseases not only to protect livestock from these diseases but humans as well.

Tweet us your thoughts and share with us what World Veterinary Day means to you. @GALVmed #WorldVetDayFind out what World Veterinary Day means to others here.

Brigitte Schiessl: Licensed to heal

What makes an 8 year old girl decide she wants to become a veterinarian?

Standing there with this dying little bird in my hands, without a clue what’s wrong with it nor what to do to help. Watching this baby calf being pulled out with brutal force of a cow wide-eyed with pain and anxiety at my great uncle’s farm. Crying over the body of my dying little dog who was just run over by a careless driver in the middle of my village, the local vet’s words ringing in my ears – “Is it able to get up? No? Then there is no point in me wasting my time, call a hunter to shoot it.”

Clearly not my idea of caring and healing. Conveniently, my mother’s cousin was a hunter and could be called in such distressful moments to bring a pet’s suffering to a peaceful end, but I still decided I wanted to become a veterinarian who made greater efforts in healing animals and caring about people than our local vet. I never changed my mind since then, and I have never regretted it for a single moment. Although I have spent the majority of my professional life in research and development of pharmaceutical products, the fascination of understanding how bodies function and what makes them ill and the comforting idea of being able to do something about it has never left me. Even the knowledge that I can’t do anything to heal an animal is comforting, because at least I don’t have to have a bad conscience about being ignorant.

I have met many other veterinarians during my career and have found that this common theme of knowledge about health and illness and the fascination of healing unites all of us around the globe, not only on World Veterinary Day.

This year’s World Veterinary Day is focusing on Vector-borne diseases with Zoonotic potential. Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are becoming a major public health concern in fact scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. At GALVmed, we work on a number of zoonotic diseases not only to protect livestock from these diseases but humans as well.

Tweet us your thoughts and share with us what World Veterinary Day means to you. @GALVmed #WorldVetDayFind out what World Veterinary Day means to others here.

A tale of two states: How a zoonotic disease can be transmitted to unsuspecting consumers

It was a rainy day in August 2013 when we made the trip to Dimapur. We wanted to experience first-hand, the problem of cysticercosis in pigs. Dimapur is the entry point for north-eastern states of India and is well connected by road, rail and air. Our final destination was Kohima, the state capital of Nagaland, where the disease is thought to be prevalent. Porcine Cysticercosis (PC) is a disease that can be transmitted from pigs to humans.  Once in humans, it can infect the brain resulting into epileptic-like seizures.

During our fact finding mission, we found out something very interesting. Even though the people in Nagaland explained that the chance of getting PC in pigs reared locally were rare, there were high cases of people infected with cysts in the brain. How then, were these people being infected if their locally reared pigs were considered negative for PC?

It turns out that most pigs consumed in the state are transported from outside states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Pigs from peri-urban areas like Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh are collected and transported thousands of miles and end up in places like Dimapur in the north east.  This is because pigs in the peri-urban areas are available at cheaper prices since most residents do not eat pork. In addition, the waste produced by these peri-urban areas provides cheap food to the pigs, making the cost of rearing the pigs inexpensive.

Pigs in semi-urban areas are exposed to unhygienic conditions which can make them pick up Tenia solium

But there lies the danger, because eating pigs that have been exposed to such unhygienic conditions puts people at risk from being infected with cysticercosis. The pigs are interacting a lot more with human waste where they can easily pick up a Tenia solium (a tape worm egg found in humans) egg and develop many cysts in the muscle. These can be transferred back to humans through eating infected meat.

The interesting and perhaps more worrisome discovery from our mission was that those rearing and selling the pigs at distant locations are probably unaware of the problem and therefore are unlikely to take any measures against exposing the pigs to the unhygienic conditions, while those who are consuming the meat do not know where the pigs are coming. This is where the government needs to come in, to put in place a countrywide control programme to stop the spread of cysts from pigs. In this way, both the sellers and the consumers will be protected.

This year’s World Veterinary Day is focusing on Vector-borne diseases with Zoonotic potential. Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are becoming a major public health concern in fact scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. At GALVmed, we work on a number of zoonotic diseases not only to protect livestock from these diseases but humans as well. Tweet us your thoughts and share with us what World Veterinary Day means to you. @GALVmed #WorldVetDay