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Counter-attacking human and pig disease in Asia
Tuesday, 2015/05/26 | 08:31:50

CIAT May, 2015 by Georgina Smith (comments)

 

Lao PDR’s Northern province of Phongsaly. Georgina Smith / CIAT.

 

Lao PDR’s northern-most province lies among cloud-covered peaks between China to the west and Vietnam to the east. The mountains here, along the eastern edge of Phongsaly province, are cut by a narrow winding pass – a trade route with Vietnam becoming more popular amid rising demand for pig meat.

 

Fuelled by affluent regional populations and population growth, demand for pig meat during some festival periods in Vietnam and Laos can jump 20-40 percent according to locals, sparking a steady trickle of trade between countries.

 

Yet a human-health concern has prompted investigations into high incidences of the tapeworm parasite Taenia solium. The larval stage of Taenia solium – cysticercosis – causes cysts in humans and pigs. In the human brain, cysts – neurocysticercosis – can lead to seizures or even death.

 

The adult tapeworm is spread by eating raw or undercooked pork contaminated with larval cysts, and the cycle of infection is closed by roaming pigs which consume infected human faeces.

 

In some villages in northern Laos, incidence rates of human taeniasis are as high as 25 percent, up from four percent – still considered endemic – in areas. A One Health joint approach has been launched into pig and human health by CIAT, ACIAR, the Australian Animal Health Laboratories (AAHL), Australia’s national science agency CSIRO and local partners including NAFRI.*

 

Anna Okello, ACIAR Country Project Coordinator for human and animal health, said: “We’re optimistic that current medical and educational efforts can be successful in controlling the disease. However, more work is required to raise awareness of this disease and roll out control interventions where they are most required.”

 

At the same time, better pig management led by CIAT is expected to improve pig production – with positive impacts on human health, smallholder profits and more efficient natural resource use, for a more robust farming system.

 

Four-pronged approach to healthier pigs

 

In the last of the fading light before thick mist settles, Ammaly Phengvilaysouk is busy talking with a group of farmers in a small hamlet of Phongsaly, noting down how many sacks of pig feed each has received. He’s a familiar face here.

 

Head of the Pig Research Station at Lao’s National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI)’s Livestock Research Center, he explains: “More than 85 percent of farmers in Laos keep pigs. When farmers need money for school fees, health problems or rice shortages they sell the pigs, and they are eaten during festivals.”

 

Since 2011, Phengvilaysouk and his team have implemented a four-pronged approach to improving pig production, training around 40 volunteer champion farmers in four basic steps: penning, fattening, vaccinations and forage feeding.

 

Penning pigs can contain disease spread, and feeding them high-quality forages like Stylosanthes guianensis or Aeschynomene histrix increases their survival rate. Pigs fed low-quality wild fodder don’t grow fast enough or fetch good prices.

 

Tassilo Tiemann, CIAT’s forage and livestock systems specialist leading the research, explained: “Investing in feed concentrate is more expensive – but ten pigs can bring in a US$200-300 profit: a considerable amount for smallholders.”

 

“Initially, farmers didn’t understand well-functioning pig production systems,” he added. “Farmers couldn’t justify the work involved in growing forages. So we provided animals and feed under contractual agreement, and farmers pay back the initial costs.”

 

- See more at: http://www.ciatnews.cgiar.org/2015/05/05/counter-attacking-human-and-pig-disease-in-asia/#sthash.VZ3yNgKo.dpuf

 

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