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Zoonotic Disease and One Health in Madagascar

September 26, 2018

Charles L. Nunn1,2,3, James Herrera1,3, and Randall Kramer2,4

1Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University 2Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University 3Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine 4Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

One of Dr. Nunn’s specimens of Rattus collected to screen for zoonotic disease (PC: Dr. Charles Nunn)

Human livelihoods depend on ecosystems, especially in rural areas of low-income countries. Changes to ecological processes influence public health, including the spread of many pathogens that infect people (i.e., zoonoses). We are studying how land-use practices impact disease transmission in rural Madagascar around Marojejy National Park. Our interdisciplinary, international team includes ecologists, epidemiologists, and social scientists, with students and faculty from Duke University, Madagascar, La Réunion, and members of the local communities. Our study screens for infectious diseases in mammals, including domesticated animals, native and invasive rats, and tenrecs in homes, rice fields, and forests.

To understand the human dimension, we have interviewed over 300 people about their farming activities, health, education, and social relationships. We found that introduced rats have a high prevalence of the zoonotic bacterium Leptospira, with up to 40% of rats from rice fields being infected. We will identify the social and environmental factors that increase disease risks for humans. With these findings, we will co-create intervention approaches with the local communities and health ministry to mitigate disease spread. Overall, our One Health research integrates rich ecological and socioeconomic perspectives, involves collaborations across disciplines, and entails a rigorous assessment of people, wildlife, domesticated animals, and environmental change.

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