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Widespread but neglected disease a health threat in Africa, Virginia Tech researchers say
Date:5/14/2013

olerant of humans.

"Investigating exposure in other wildlife, and assessing what species act as carriers, is essential for improving our understanding of human, wildlife, and domestic animal risk of leptospirosis in this ecosystem," the researchers wrote.

The study also cited climate change predictions that the region will become more arid, concentrating humans and animals even more around limited surface water, increasing the potential for disease transmission of water-associated organisms.

"Infectious diseases, particularly those that can be transmitted from animals, often occur where people are more vulnerable to environmental change and have less access to public health services," said Alexander.

"This is particularly true in Africa. While we are concerned about emerging diseases that might threaten public health the next new pandemic we need to be careful that we don't drop the ball and stop pursuing important diseases like leptospirosis that have already been identified as having a significant impact on human health.

"As humans move into traditional wildlife areas and transform landscapes, interactions between humans and wildlife will change in important ways," she continued. "Many wildlife species are becoming progressively more urbanized, setting the stage for increased contact with humans and the potential for transmission of diseases such as leptospirosis. The more important threat to human health likely arises from known pathogens occurring in changing landscapes."

Alexander is working together with the Botswana government to identify immediate research and management action in particular, the need to alert frontline medical practitioners and public health officials to the potential for leptospirosis infections to occur in humans and to include this pathogen in diagnostic assessments and disease surveillance.


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Contact: Lynn Davis
davisl@vt.edu
540-231-6157
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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