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A multi-disciplinary approach to optimize, evaluate social uptake, and mathematically predict the impact of a novel point-of-contact diagnostic test for targeted treatment of zoonotic hybrid and livestock schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa
Investigator(s): Prof Joanne Webster (RVC) and Dr James Rudge (LSHTM)
Amount Awarded: £280,274

Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease of profound medical importance. Over 240 million people are infected, 90% of these are amongst the poorest of sub-Saharan Africa. Although generally ignored, schistosomiasis is also a disease of substantial veterinary importance, causing widespread morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, recent environmental changes are exacerbating opportunities for the mixing and subsequent viable hybridization between human and animal schistosome species in many parts of Africa, in particular West Africa. In addition to the economic impact of livestock schistosomiasis, novel zoonotic hybrid schistosomes are having a substantial impact on the epidemiology, evolution and clinical outcomes of disease, with further challenges and constraints for effective control.

Our challenge to this previously unforeseen need is to, in line with current human-focused national disease control programmes, promote appropriate use of veterinary-approved anti-schistosomiasis treatment to livestock under specific conditions of need, whilst minimizing drug emergence risk. To help achieve this here we will aim to: a) evaluate and optimise a potential inexpensive, socially-acceptable, sensitive and specific rapid point-of-care diagnostic tool for livestock schistosomiasis; b) through incorporation of our epidemiological data gathered to date, develop and run differential predictive mathematical simulations to design the most effective and sustainable test-and-treat strategy for livestock; and c) evaluate whether key stake holders in endemic countries would be amenable to such a test-and-treat policy. Working within a One Health framework, this research therefore ultimately aims to improve human and animal health.

Research team:

Professor Joanne Webster, Professor of Parasitic Disease (RVC)
Dr James Rudge, Assistant Professor (Infectious Disease Epidemiology) (LSHTM)
Dr Martin Walker, Lecturer in Epidemiology (RVC)
Dr Elsa Leger, Postdoctoral Reacher in One Health (RVC)