student profile: Mrs Christine Atherstone


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Thesis work

Thesis title: Assessing the impact of pig associated zoonoses in Uganda

Supervisors: Michael WARD , Siobhan MOR

Thesis abstract:

Agriculture is critical for human wellbeing, providing food, employment, income and assets. The growth in livestock production in recent years has raised concerns of the increasing risk of zoonotic disease transmission. Endemic zoonoses are responsible for the greatest majority of human cases of illness and deaths as well as the greatest reduction in livestock production. In contrast, most emerging zoonoses are of minimal impact, but historically emerging diseases have been responsible for massive impacts. Pig associated zoonoses in less developed countries impacts livelihoods through loss of income and production and indirectly through treatment costs and loss of work. Over the past 30 years, pigs numbers in Uganda have increased by more than tenfold and today’s estimated 3.2 million pigs are raised by more than 1.1 million households. The increase in pig rearing is a result of their high reproduction rates, rapid weight gain, potential to provide quick financial returns and rising demand for pork. As pig production increases to meet growing consumer demand for pork, so too does the risk of disease transmission between pigs and humans.  Existing information on the burden of pig associated zoonoses in Uganda is sparse and likely biased due to its reliance on passive reporting by poorly resourced veterinary services or on localized surveys focused on a specific disease. Due to patchy laboratory infrastructure, weak diagnostic capabilities and passive surveillance systems, many of these diseases may go undetected simply because they are not recognized or tested for. The relative importance of these diseases on pig performance and public health is unknown. Pigs have also been associated with several emerging zoonotic diseases over the last decade. These include Ebolaviruses, Hepatitis E virus, Nipah virus, Ndumu virus, Menangle virus, swine influenza virus and Bungowannah virus. In Uganda, the presence of emerging infectious diseases is unknown in pigs. The public health risk of these pig associated emerging zoonoses is also unknown. In livestock the endemic zoonoses Leptospira spp., Brucella spp. and Coxiella burnetii cause sporadic abortions, stillbirths, birth of weak offspring and infertility. In humans, these pathogens are the cause of acute, undifferentiated febrile illness as well as more severe symptoms, especially without treatment. In Uganda, the burden of Leptospira spp., Brucella spp. and Coxiella burnetii is unknown in pigs and poorly understood in humans. This research is divided into two themes: (1) endemic zoonoses (Leptospira spp., Brucella spp. and Coxiella burnetii) and (2) emerging zoonoses Filoviruses (Ebola/Marburg), Hepatitis E virus and Henipaviruses. The objectives are to: (1) Establish proof of freedom of select emerging infectious diseases in domestic pigs presenting for slaughter at the central pork abattoir in Kampala (African viral hemorrhagic fevers, Hepatitis E virus and Henipaviruses), (2) Establish prevalence of select endemic zoonoses in domestic pigs (such as leptospirosis, Q fever, brucellosis),  (3) Using network analysis techniques, map pig trade volume and routes and describe pig trader knowledge and practices

Selected publications

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Conferences

  • Atherstone, C., Alonso, S., Grace, D., Ward, M., Dhand, N., Mor, S. (2017). Ebola virus surveillance in pigs presenting for slaughter in Uganda. 4th International One Health Congress & 6th Biennial Congress of the International Association for Ecology, Australia: One Health Global Network.

2017

  • Atherstone, C., Alonso, S., Grace, D., Ward, M., Dhand, N., Mor, S. (2017). Ebola virus surveillance in pigs presenting for slaughter in Uganda. 4th International One Health Congress & 6th Biennial Congress of the International Association for Ecology, Australia: One Health Global Network.

Note: This profile is for a student at the University of Sydney. Views presented here are not necessarily those of the University.