The researchers sampled both the cow dung floors and excrement from cattle, goats and chickens. They found similar genetic sequences from the bacteria retrieved from the infants as in the hut floors and nearby dung.
"It is really hard to keep infants to an adequate standard of cleanliness in this environment," said Schiff. "The bacteria we found reflects, I think, a significant environmental influence."
While the researchers have not yet proven that these bacterial infections are the cause of the devastating hydrocephalus occurrences, they believe that in part, bacterial infections from animals are the cause.
Historically, certain East African peoples have applied cow dung to stem bleeding in umbilical cord stumps, which caused newborn infections. Although such infections are now rare, the scope of newborn bacterial infections related to living in close proximity to domestic animals remains poorly categorized.
"As far as we can tell, these types of environmental newborn infections are the dominant cause of hydrocephalus on the planet," said Schiff. "We may be dealing with bacteria that we can't culture, viruses or parasites, and we may be dealing with different organisms in different locations"
The researchers are continuing their work and forming an African Hydrocephalus Consortium with Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. They are conducting follow-up clinical trials at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in southwest Uganda on mother-infant pairs with new neonatal infections, and at the CURE Children's Hospital of Uganda on older infants with postinfectious hydrocephalus. These trials use next generation technologies and high quality microbiology to sort out the causative agents affecting these infants. They are also continuing to explore the environmental connection so that public health strategies toward preventing the initial infecti
|Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer|