Smallholder dairy farming is a rapidly growing area in East Africa promoted by NGOs (including BMGF) as a means of improving income and food security in these LMICs. However, imported European genetic stock with high production potential are not well adapted to the disease challenges that they face and in particular the multiple pathogen co-infections. We are working with the Lessos Dairy Co-Operative as part of the CTLGH programme and have just completed an initial baseline cross-sectional study. Already we have identified high levels of reported abortions in the previous 12 months (14%, 95% CI 10-19%) and poor management practices such as feeding placenta to pigs or dogs (~51%) or throwing on rubbish heap (~20%). We have collected vaginal swabs, serum and whole blood from all adult cows as well as data on calving intervals etc. Anecdotally the co-operative have also raised their concerns about zoonoses as they report several farmers with brucellosis.
This PhD project would link into the ongoing animal surveillance and study of causes of abortion in the cattle but focus on sampling the human and small ruminant populations associated with these herds plus a human control population from non livestock keeping households to estimate the exposure to the key pathogens, risk factors for seroconversion and identify interventions to reduce exposure risk. The ultimate output will be a One Health surveillance system (OHSS) for the small holder dairy farming community in Nandi (One Health High-Level Expert Panel et al. 2023).
The team has extensive experience managing large cohort studies in Africa (Bronsvoort et al 2013) and previous work in slaughterhouses and smallholder dairy farms have identified exposure of both people and livestock to a range of zoonotic pathogens including leptospirosis (Cook et al. 2016), Q fever (Bwatota et al. 2022). Currently we plan to screen sera by ELISA to look for evidence of exposure to Brucella, Leptospira, Coxiella burnetii, and Rift Valley fever virus. In addition we are developing a multiplex qPCR for field use on the mobile Biomeme platform and exploring unbiased screening appraches with NGS on the MinION platform.
Funding information and application procedures:
This 3.5 year studentship opportunity is open to UK and international students and provides funding to cover stipend, tuition fees and consumable/travel costs.
Application form can be downloaded via https://www.ed.ac.uk/sites/default/files/atoms/files/rdsvs_gaffs_roslin_foundation_studentship_application_form_2024-25.doc
Please send your completed Application Form to [Email Address Removed]
If you are applying for more than one studentship please submit a separate application with a closing date of noon on 8th January 2024 at https://www.ed.ac.uk/roslin/work-study/opportunities/studentships