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1.  A Focused Ethnographic Study of Alberta Cattle Veterinarians’ Decision Making about Diagnostic Laboratory Submissions and Perceptions of Surveillance Programs 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64811.
The animal and public health communities need to address the challenge posed by zoonotic emerging infectious diseases. To minimize the impacts of future events, animal disease surveillance will need to enable prompt event detection and response. Diagnostic laboratory-based surveillance systems targeting domestic animals depend in large part on private veterinarians to submit samples from cases to a laboratory. In contexts where pre-diagnostic laboratory surveillance systems have been implemented, this group of veterinarians is often asked to input data. This scenario holds true in Alberta where private cattle veterinarians have been asked to participate in the Alberta Veterinary Surveillance Network-Veterinary Practice Surveillance, a platform to which pre-diagnostic disease and non-disease case data are submitted. Consequently, understanding the factors that influence these veterinarians to submit cases to a laboratory and the complex of factors that affect their participation in surveillance programs is foundational to interpreting disease patterns reported by laboratories and engaging veterinarians in surveillance. A focused ethnographic study was conducted with ten cattle veterinarians in Alberta. Individual in-depth interviews with participants were recorded and transcribed to enable thematic analysis. Laboratory submissions were biased toward outbreaks of unknown cause, cases with unusual mortality rates, and issues with potential herd-level implications. Decreasing cattle value and government support for laboratory testing have contributed to fewer submissions over time. Participants were willing participants in surveillance, though government support and collaboration were necessary. Changes in the beef industry and veterinary profession, as well as cattle producers themselves, present both challenges and opportunities in surveillance.
PMCID: PMC3669388  PMID: 23741397
2.  Twelve Years of Rabies Surveillance in Sri Lanka, 1999–2010 
Rabies is endemic in Sri Lanka, but little is known about the temporal and spatial trends of rabies in this country. Knowing these trends may provide insight into past control efforts and serve as the basis for future control measures. In this study, we analyzed distribution of rabies in humans and animals over a period of 12 years in Sri Lanka.
Accumulated data from 1999 through 2010 compiled by the Department of Rabies Diagnosis and Research, Medical Research Institute (MRI), Colombo, were used in this study.
The yearly mean percentage of rabies-positive sample was 62.4% (47.6–75.9%). Three-fourths of the rabies-positive samples were from the Colombo, Gampaha, and Kalutara districts in Western province, followed by Galle in Southern province. A high percentage of the rabies samples were from dogs (85.2%), followed by cats (7.9%), humans (3.8%), wild animals (2.0%), and livestock (1.1%). Among wild animals, mongooses were the main victims followed by civets. The number of suspect human rabies cases decreased gradually in Sri Lanka, although the number of human samples submitted for laboratory confirmation increased.
The number of rabid dogs has remained relatively unchanged, but the number of suspect human rabies is decreasing gradually in Sri Lanka. These findings indicate successful use of postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) by animal bite victims and increased rabies awareness. PEP is free of charge and is supplied through government hospitals by the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka. Our survey shows that most positive samples were received from Western and Southern provinces, possibly because of the ease of transporting samples to the laboratory. Submissions of wild animal and livestock samples should be increased by creating more awareness among the public. Better rabies surveillance will require introduction of molecular methods for detection and the establishment of more regional rabies diagnostic laboratories.
Author Summary
Rabies is a public health concern in Sri Lanka. The incidence of dog rabies remains unchanged, but the incidence of suspect human rabies is decreasing gradually in Sri Lanka. This finding indicates the effects of improved access to postexposure prophylaxis by animal bite victims and increased rabies awareness. As in other rabies-endemic countries, in Sri Lanka, human rabies is transmitted mainly by dogs, although domestic and wild animals have been diagnosed rabid, and can pose a risk of exposure to humans. In this study, we analyzed 12 years of data accumulated in the national reference laboratory of Sri Lanka to identify the trends of rabies in this country. This study showed that rabies has been recorded mainly in Western and Southern Provinces of Sri Lanka, possibly because of the ease of communication with rabies diagnostic laboratories from these areas. Regional rabies diagnosis laboratories should be established to improve surveillance of rabies in Sri Lanka. There were few submitted animal samples from livestock and wild animals, indicating that greater awareness is needed among the public regarding the need to submit suspect rabid animals for diagnostic evaluation. These data could help policy makers improve rabies prevention and to control rabies in Sri Lanka.
PMCID: PMC4191952  PMID: 25299511
3.  Veterinary decision making in relation to metritis - a qualitative approach to understand the background for variation and bias in veterinary medical records 
Results of analyses based on veterinary records of animal disease may be prone to variation and bias, because data collection for these registers relies on different observers in different settings as well as different treatment criteria. Understanding the human influence on data collection and the decisions related to this process may help veterinary and agricultural scientists motivate observers (veterinarians and farmers) to work more systematically, which may improve data quality. This study investigates qualitative relations between two types of records: 1) 'diagnostic data' as recordings of metritis scores and 2) 'intervention data' as recordings of medical treatment for metritis and the potential influence on quality of the data.
The study is based on observations in veterinary dairy practice combined with semi-structured research interviews of veterinarians working within a herd health concept where metritis diagnosis was described in detail. The observations and interviews were analysed by qualitative research methods to describe differences in the veterinarians' perceptions of metritis diagnosis (scores) and their own decisions related to diagnosis, treatment, and recording.
The analysis demonstrates how data quality can be affected during the diagnostic procedures, as interaction occurs between diagnostics and decisions about medical treatments. Important findings were when scores lacked consistency within and between observers (variation) and when scores were adjusted to the treatment decision already made by the veterinarian (bias). The study further demonstrates that veterinarians made their decisions at 3 different levels of focus (cow, farm, population). Data quality was influenced by the veterinarians' perceptions of collection procedures, decision making and their different motivations to collect data systematically.
Both variation and bias were introduced into the data because of veterinarians' different perceptions of and motivations for decision making. Acknowledgement of these findings by researchers, educational institutions and veterinarians in practice may stimulate an effort to improve the quality of field data, as well as raise awareness about the importance of including knowledge about human perceptions when interpreting studies based on field data. Both recognitions may increase the usefulness of both within-herd and between-herd epidemiological analyses.
PMCID: PMC2745412  PMID: 19715614
4.  Mobile Phone–based Infectious Disease Surveillance System, Sri Lanka 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2010;16(10):1524-1531.
Because many infectious diseases are emerging in animals in low-income and middle-income countries, surveillance of animal health in these areas may be needed for forecasting disease risks to humans. We present an overview of a mobile phone–based frontline surveillance system developed and implemented in Sri Lanka. Field veterinarians reported animal health information by using mobile phones. Submissions increased steadily over 9 months, with ≈4,000 interactions between field veterinarians and reports on the animal population received by the system. Development of human resources and increased communication between local stakeholders (groups and persons whose actions are affected by emerging infectious diseases and animal health) were instrumental for successful implementation. The primary lesson learned was that mobile phone–based surveillance of animal populations is acceptable and feasible in lower-resource settings. However, any system implementation plan must consider the time needed to garner support for novel surveillance methods among users and stakeholders.
PMCID: PMC3294391  PMID: 20875276
Disease surveillance; early warning; zoonoses; animal health; low and middle income countries; resource-limited settings; Sri Lanka; sentinels; research
5.  Why do farmers and veterinarians not report all bovine abortions, as requested by the clinical brucellosis surveillance system in France? 
Since 2005, France has been officially free of brucellosis, an infectious disease that causes abortion in cattle and can be transmitted from cattle to humans. Recent animal and human cases have drawn attention to the need to prevent infection of humans and animals from any primary outbreaks. In order to detect any new outbreaks as soon as possible, a clinical surveillance system requires farmers and veterinarians to report each abortion and to test the aborting cow for brucellosis. However, under-reporting limits the sensitivity of this system. Our objective was to identify the barriers and motivations influencing field actors in their decision to report or not to report bovine abortions. We used a qualitative approach with semi-structured interviews of 12 cattle farmers and their eight veterinarians.
Our analysis showed that four main themes influence the decision-making process of farmers and veterinarians: 1) the perceived risk of brucellosis and other abortive diseases; 2) the definition of a suspected case of brucellosis and other abortive diseases adopted by field actors, which is less sensitive than the mandatory definition; 3) the cost-benefit analysis conducted by actors, taking into account regulatory and health aspects, economic and financial losses, technical and practical factors; 4) the level of cooperation within the socio-technical network. We discussed how early detection may be improved by revising the definition of abortion, extending the time frame for notification and generalising the differential diagnosis of the causes of abortion.
In contrast to quantitative approaches, qualitative studies can identify the factors (including unknown factors) influencing the decision-making process of field actors and reveal why they take those factors into consideration. Our qualitative study sheds light on the factors underlying the poor sensitivity of clinical brucellosis surveillance system for cattle in France, and suggests that early detection may be improved by considering actors’ perceptions. We believe our findings may provide further insight into ways of improving other clinical surveillance systems and thus reduce the risk of disease.
PMCID: PMC4036594  PMID: 24762103
6.  A Hidden Markov Model for Analysis of Frontline Veterinary Data for Emerging Zoonotic Disease Surveillance 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24833.
Surveillance systems tracking health patterns in animals have potential for early warning of infectious disease in humans, yet there are many challenges that remain before this can be realized. Specifically, there remains the challenge of detecting early warning signals for diseases that are not known or are not part of routine surveillance for named diseases. This paper reports on the development of a hidden Markov model for analysis of frontline veterinary sentinel surveillance data from Sri Lanka. Field veterinarians collected data on syndromes and diagnoses using mobile phones. A model for submission patterns accounts for both sentinel-related and disease-related variability. Models for commonly reported cattle diagnoses were estimated separately. Region-specific weekly average prevalence was estimated for each diagnoses and partitioned into normal and abnormal periods. Visualization of state probabilities was used to indicate areas and times of unusual disease prevalence. The analysis suggests that hidden Markov modelling is a useful approach for surveillance datasets from novel populations and/or having little historical baselines.
PMCID: PMC3174964  PMID: 21949763
7.  Detection of a Swine Erysipelas Outbreak Using Enhanced Passive Surveillance 
To describe detection and response for an erysipelas outbreak in market swine in the United States (U.S.) using Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) slaughter condemnation data, and coordination with the swine industry in an Enhanced Passive Surveillance (EPS) pilot project.
EPS is a comprehensive effort to complement other types of surveillance and provide early detection and situational awareness of significant endemic, zoonotic, and emerging diseases of livestock. The concept for EPS involves gathering syndromic and observational data from multiple animal health surveillance sources, including private practitioners, livestock markets, livestock harvest facilities, and veterinary diagnostic laboratories. A signal indicating a potential animal health event in one data stream can be corroborated in the other streams. For swine surveillance in the U.S., USDA-APHIS monitors the number of swine condemned for specific reasons. Likewise, industry practitioners share front-line clinical information within their practitioner network to detect anomalies. This case summary demonstrates the successful outcome of implementing an EPS pilot program through Federal and industry partnership.
FSIS Animal Disposition Reporting System swine condemnation data are monitored by USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services (VS) for several condemn conditions, including erysipelas, a bacterial disease of swine. Typically, slaughter condemnations for erysipelas are rare. The monitored data represent 83 market swine harvest facilities throughout the U.S. A modification of the ‘C3’CUSUM aberration detection method from the Early Aberration Reporting System (EARS) is applied to the data at both the slaughter plant level and at a larger multi-plant swine catchment basin level which represents separate swine production areas. The National Pork Board (NPB), a U.S. swine producer association, hosts a quarterly conference call with a sentinel network of swine veterinarians to exchange information about anomalies in swine health observed by practitioners. During mid-February 2012, several practitioners suspected a local increase in erysipelas in finishing swine. Absent baseline data on erysipelas occurrence nationally, the scope of the problem was uncertain. Following the call, the NPB in collaboration with VS attempted to validate the information reported by swine practitioners.
Beginning the week of January 8, 2012, VS analysts noted a slight increase in erysipelas CUSUM signaling activity in the greater Iowa catchment basin slaughter plants. During the seven-week period between January 8 and February 25, eight weekly plant-level CUSUM signals were observed, while the previous 36-week period yielded only fourteen plant-level signals. On average, 0.39 signals per week were noted in the weeks prior to the outbreak period while the corresponding average for the seven-week outbreak period was 1.14 plant signals per week. Seven of the eight plants that signaled during the outbreak period did not report large weekly spikes; however, the weekly accumulation of condemns were sufficient to trigger concern. Since the erysipelas signals were not large compared to the background noise, there was uncertainty whether the increased signaling activity truly represented a disease event. After cross validating the slaughter surveillance data with front line practitioner information, a swine health alert regarding the increase in erysipelas cases was issued by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. Intervention measures were initiated as deemed appropriate by each private veterinarian.
This example of an Enhanced Passive Surveillance Program demonstrates use of independent streams of information from government and private industry to detect an outbreak of erysipelas in market swine. The communication process was facilitated by the NPB and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, and coordinated with the industry resulting in an appropriate response to prevent swine losses at very early stages of the outbreak. Corroboration and validation between the two data streams (slaughter and practitioner) provided confidence that an outbreak was beginning and assisted the swine industry in decision making to enhance disease prevention activities. This type of early warning and response can reduce the cost of disease outbreaks to swine producers as well as provide confidence in the national disease status for swine in the United States.
PMCID: PMC3692889
animal health surveillance; Federal and industry partnership; enhanced passive surveillance; swine erysipelas
8.  Improvement in Survival after Paraquat Ingestion Following Introduction of a New Formulation in Sri Lanka 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(2):e49.
Pesticide ingestion is a common method of self-harm in the rural developing world. In an attempt to reduce the high case fatality seen with the herbicide paraquat, a novel formulation (INTEON) has been developed containing an increased emetic concentration, a purgative, and an alginate that forms a gel under the acid conditions of the stomach, potentially slowing the absorption of paraquat and giving the emetic more time to be effective. We compared the outcome of paraquat self-poisoning with the standard formulation against the new INTEON formulation following its introduction into Sri Lanka.
Methods and Findings
Clinical data were prospectively collected on 586 patients with paraquat ingestion presenting to nine large hospitals across Sri Lanka with survival to 3 mo as the primary outcome. The identity of the formulation ingested after October 2004 was confirmed by assay of blood or urine samples for a marker compound present in INTEON. The proportion of known survivors increased from 76/297 with the standard formulation to 103/289 with INTEON ingestion, and estimated 3-mo survival improved from 27.1% to 36.7% (difference 9.5%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.0%–17.1%; p = 0.002, log rank test). Cox proportional hazards regression analyses showed an approximately 2-fold reduction in toxicity for INTEON compared to standard formulation. A higher proportion of patients ingesting INTEON vomited within 15 min (38% with the original formulation to 55% with INTEON, p < 0.001). Median survival time increased from 2.3 d (95% CI 1.2–3.4 d) with the standard formulation to 6.9 d (95% CI 3.3–10.7 d) with INTEON ingestion (p = 0.002, log rank test); however, in patients who did not survive there was a comparatively smaller increase in median time to death from 0.9 d (interquartile range [IQR] 0.5–3.4) to 1.5 d (IQR 0.5–5.5); p = 0.02.
The survey has shown that INTEON technology significantly reduces the mortality of patients following paraquat ingestion and increases survival time, most likely by reducing absorption.
Martin Wilks and colleagues compared the outcome of paraquat self-poisoning with the standard formulation against a new formulation following its introduction into Sri Lanka.
Editors' Summary
Paraquat is a non-selective herbicide used in many countries on a variety of crops including potatoes, rice, maize, tea, cotton, and bananas. It is fast-acting, rainfast, and facilitates “no-till” farming, but it has attracted controversy because of the potential for misuse, particularly in developing countries. Better training of workers has been shown to reduce the number of accidents, and additions to the liquid formulation have contributed to a reduction in cases where paraquat was drunk by mistake—blue color and a stench agent made it less attractive to drink, and an emetic to induce vomiting aimed to reduce the time it is retained in the body.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite the changes made to the formulation, paraquat is still taken deliberately as a poison by agricultural workers in parts of the developing world. Although other pesticides cause more deaths overall, paraquat poisoning is more frequently fatal than other common pesticides. Syngenta, a commercial producer of paraquat, has developed a new paraquat formulation designed to reduce its toxicity. Syngenta introduced the new formulation in Sri Lanka, a country well known for its high level of suicides with pesticides, in 2004. This new formulation includes three components designed to reduce paraquat absorption from the stomach and intestines: a gelling agent to thicken the formulation in the acidic environment of the stomach and slow its passage into the small intestine; an increase in the amount of emetic to induce more vomiting more quickly; and a purgative to speed its exit from the small intestine, the main site of its absorption. The researchers wished to know whether the new formulation could contribute to improved survival in instances where paraquat had been ingested.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers gathered information on the time and circumstances of when paraquat was taken, the amount that was taken, the times, and details of any vomiting, treatment, and outcomes for cases of attempted suicide by paraquat poisoning at nine large hospitals in agricultural regions of Sri Lanka from December 2003 to January 2006. In total, 774 patients were tracked in this time. Syngenta introduced the new formulation in Sri Lanka on 1 October 2004. The researchers gathered information on the formulation involved in subsequent cases, by either interview or analysis of samples. After excluding some unusual or less certain cases, they analyzed data on 586 patients, of whom 297 had deliberately taken the standard formulation and 289 the new formulation.
Although the new formulation was still toxic, the data showed an increase in the proportion of cases surviving for at least three months—from 27% (standard formulation) to 37% (new formulation), an effect that was unlikely to be due to chance. More patients vomited within 15 minutes of taking the new formulation of paraquat. Patients who died generally survived longer if they had taken the new rather than the standard formulation. The researchers estimated that the new formulation is just over half as toxic as the standard formulation, meaning that a patient was likely to suffer the same level of ill effects after taking twice as much of the new formulation compared to the standard formulation.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study was designed, funded, and led by Syngenta, the manufacturer of the standard and new formulations of paraquat but the study team included a number of independent Sri Lankan and international scientists. As the researchers observed the effects of the introduction of the new formulation across the entire country at the same time, they could not completely rule out other possible reasons for the differences in outcomes for those who had taken the two formulations, such as differences in treatment.
Despite this inherent drawback, the researchers estimate that during the study the new formulation saved about 30 lives. They conclude that the the new formulation does reduce the amount of paraquat absorbed by the body, although the study does not answer the question whether this was due to the gelling agent, the increased emetic in the new formulation or a combination of factors. The researchers suggest that the new formulation, by keeping patients alive longer, may allow doctors more time to treat patients. As no effective treatment exists at present, this benefit relies on a treatment being developed in the future.
The researchers note that the most important factor in predicting the outcome when paraquat has been taken deliberately is the dose. As a result, they suggest that the new formulation can only be one part of a wider strategy to reduce deaths by deliberate self-poisoning using paraquat. They suggest that such an integrated approach might include generic measures to reduce incidents of self-harm, reduced access to paraquat, reduced formulation strength, and improvements in treatment.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US Environmental Protection Agency has published its Reregistration Eligibility Decision for paraquat
The Department of Health and Human Services of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a fact sheet on how to handle paraquat and suspected cases of exposure
The World Health Organisation has recently finished consulting on a draft Poisons Information Monograph for paraquat
The International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) has published a review of paraquat in its Environmental Health Criteria Series
MedlinePlus provides links to information on health effects of paraquat
PMCID: PMC2253611  PMID: 18303942
9.  A mixed methods inquiry: How dairy farmers perceive the value(s) of their involvement in an intensive dairy herd health management program 
Research has been scarce when it comes to the motivational and behavioral sides of farmers' expectations related to dairy herd health management programs. The objectives of this study were to explore farmers' expectations related to participation in a health management program by: 1) identifying important ambitions, goals and subjective well-being among farmers, 2) submitting those data to a quantitative analysis thereby characterizing perspective(s) of value added by health management programs among farmers; and 3) to characterize perceptions of farmers' goals among veterinarians.
The subject was initially explored by means of literature, interviews and discussions with farmers, herd health management consultants and researchers to provide an understanding (a concourse) of the research entity. The concourse was then broken down into 46 statements. Sixteen Danish dairy farmers and 18 veterinarians associated with one large nationwide veterinary practice were asked to rank the 46 statements that defined the concourse. Next, a principal component analysis was applied to identify correlated statements and thus families of perspectives between respondents. Q-methodology was utilized to represent each of the statements by one row and each respondent by one column in the matrix. A subset of the farmers participated in a series of semi-structured interviews to face validate the concourse and to discuss subjects like animal welfare, veterinarians' competences as experienced by the farmers and time constraints in the farmers' everyday life.
Farmers' views could be described by four families of perspectives: Teamwork, Animal welfare, Knowledge dissemination, and Production. Veterinarians believed that farmers' primary focus was on production and profit, however, farmers' valued teamwork and animal welfare more.
The veterinarians in this study appear to focus too much on financial performance and increased production when compared to most of the participating farmers' expectations. On the other hand veterinarians did not focus enough on the major products, which farmers really wanted to buy, i.e. teamwork and animal welfare. Consequently, disciplines like sociology, economics and marketing may offer new methodological approaches to veterinarians as these disciplines have understood that accounting for individual differences is central to motivate change, i.e. 'know thy customer'.
PMCID: PMC2628344  PMID: 19091134
10.  Acute Human Lethal Toxicity of Agricultural Pesticides: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(10):e1000357.
In a prospective cohort study of patients presenting with pesticide self-poisoning, Andrew Dawson and colleagues investigate the relative human toxicity of agricultural pesticides and contrast it with WHO toxicity classifications, which are based on toxicity in rats.
Agricultural pesticide poisoning is a major public health problem in the developing world, killing at least 250,000–370,000 people each year. Targeted pesticide restrictions in Sri Lanka over the last 20 years have reduced pesticide deaths by 50% without decreasing agricultural output. However, regulatory decisions have thus far not been based on the human toxicity of formulated agricultural pesticides but on the surrogate of rat toxicity using pure unformulated pesticides. We aimed to determine the relative human toxicity of formulated agricultural pesticides to improve the effectiveness of regulatory policy.
Methods and Findings
We examined the case fatality of different agricultural pesticides in a prospective cohort of patients presenting with pesticide self-poisoning to two clinical trial centers from April 2002 to November 2008. Identification of the pesticide ingested was based on history or positive identification of the container. A single pesticide was ingested by 9,302 patients. A specific pesticide was identified in 7,461 patients; 1,841 ingested an unknown pesticide. In a subset of 808 patients, the history of ingestion was confirmed by laboratory analysis in 95% of patients. There was a large variation in case fatality between pesticides—from 0% to 42%. This marked variation in lethality was observed for compounds within the same chemical and/or WHO toxicity classification of pesticides and for those used for similar agricultural indications.
The human data provided toxicity rankings for some pesticides that contrasted strongly with the WHO toxicity classification based on rat toxicity. Basing regulation on human toxicity will make pesticide poisoning less hazardous, preventing hundreds of thousands of deaths globally without compromising agricultural needs. Ongoing monitoring of patterns of use and clinical toxicity for new pesticides is needed to identify highly toxic pesticides in a timely manner.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Suicide is a preventable global public health problem. About 1 million people die each year from suicide and many more harm themselves but survive. Although many people who commit suicide have a mental illness, stressful events (economic hardship or relationship difficulties, for example) can sometimes make life seem too painful to bear. Suicide attempts are frequently impulsive and use methods that are conveniently accessible. Strategies to reduce suicide rates include better treatment of mental illness and programs that help people at high risk of suicide deal with stress. Suicide rates can also be reduced by limiting access to common suicide methods. The single most important means of suicide worldwide is agricultural pesticide poisoning. Every year, between 250,000 and 370,000 people die from deliberate ingestion of pesticides (chemicals that kill animal pests or unwanted plants). Most of these suicides occur in rural areas of the developing world where high levels of pesticide use in agriculture combined with pesticide storage at home facilitate this particular method of suicide.
Why Was This Study Done?
To help reduce suicides through the ingestion of agricultural pesticides, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recommends the withdrawal of the most toxic pesticides—World Health Organization (WHO) class I pesticides—from agricultural use. This strategy has proven successful in Sri Lanka where a ban on class I pesticides in 1995 and on the class II pesticide endosulfan in 1998 has reduced pesticide deaths by 50% over the past 20 years without decreasing agricultural output. Further reductions in suicides from pesticide ingestion could be achieved if regulatory restrictions on the sale and distribution of the most toxic class II pesticides were imposed. But such restrictions must balance agricultural needs against the impact of pesticides on public health. Unfortunately, the current WHO pesticide classification is based on toxicity in rats. Because rats handle pesticides differently from people, there is no guarantee that a pesticide with low toxicity in rodents is safe in people. Here, the researchers try to determine the relative human toxicity of agricultural pesticides in a prospective cohort study (a study in which people who share a characteristic—in this case, deliberate pesticide ingestion—are enrolled and followed to see how they fare).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined the case fatality (the proportion of patients dying after hospital admission) of different agricultural pesticides among patients who presented with pesticide self-poisoning at two Sri Lankan referral hospitals. Between April 2002 and November 2008, 9,302 people were admitted to the hospitals after swallowing a single pesticide. The researchers identified the pesticide ingested in 7,461 cases by asking the patient what he/she had taken or by identifying the container brought in by the patient or relatives. 10% of the patients died but there was a large variation in case fatality between pesticides. The herbicide paraquat was the most lethal pesticide, killing 42% of patients; several other pesticides killed no one. Compounds in the same chemical class and/or the same WHO toxicity class sometimes had very different toxicities. For example, dimethoate and malathione, both class II organophosphate insecticides, had case fatalities of 20.6% and 1.9%, respectively. Similarly, pesticides used for similar agricultural purposes sometimes had very different case fatalities.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide a toxicity ranking for pesticides that deviates markedly from the WHO toxicity classification based on rat toxicity. Although the findings are based on a study undertaken at just two Sri Lankan hospitals, they are likely to be generalizable to other hospitals and to other parts of rural Asia. However, because the study only included patients who were admitted to hospital after ingesting pesticides, the actual case fatalities for some pesticides may be somewhat different. Nevertheless, these findings have several important public health implications. For example, they suggest that the decision taken in January 2008 to withdraw paraquat, dimethoate, and fenthion from the Sri Lankan market should reduce deaths from pesticide poisoning in Sri Lanka by a further 33%–65% (equivalent to about 1,000 fewer suicides per year). More generally, they suggest that basing the regulation of pesticides on human toxicity has the potential to prevent hundreds and thousands of intentional and accidental deaths globally without compromising agricultural needs.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Matt Miller and Kavi Bhalla
The World Health Organization provides information on the global burden of suicide and on suicide prevention (in several languages) and on its classification of pesticides
The US Environmental Protection Agency provides information about all aspects of pesticides (in English and Spanish)
Toxtown, an interactive site from the US National Library of Science, provides information on environmental health concerns including exposure to pesticides (in English and Spanish)
The nonprofit organization Pesticide Action Network UK provides information about all aspects of pesticides
The US National Pesticide Information Center provides objective, science-based information about pesticides (in several languages)
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations leads international efforts to reduce hunger; as part of this effort, it has introduced pesticide policy reforms (in several languages)
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about suicide and about pesticides (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2964340  PMID: 21048990
11.  Mass Fatality Management following the South Asian Tsunami Disaster: Case Studies in Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(6):e195.
Following natural disasters, mismanagement of the dead has consequences for the psychological well-being of survivors. However, no technical guidelines currently exist for managing mass fatalities following large natural disasters. Existing methods of mass fatality management are not directly transferable as they are designed for transport accidents and acts of terrorism. Furthermore, no information is currently available about post-disaster management of the dead following previous large natural disasters.
Methods and Findings
After the tsunami disaster on 26 December 2004, we conducted three descriptive case studies to systematically document how the dead were managed in Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. We considered the following parameters: body recovery and storage, identification, disposal of human remains, and health risks from dead bodies. We used participant observations as members of post-tsunami response teams, conducted semi-structured interviews with key informants, and collected information from published and unpublished documents.
Refrigeration for preserving human remains was not available soon enough after the disaster, necessitating the use of other methods such as dry ice or temporary burial. No country had sufficient forensic capacity to identify thousands of victims. Rapid decomposition made visual identification almost impossible after 24–48 h. In Thailand, most forensic identification was made using dental and fingerprint data. Few victims were identified from DNA. Lack of national or local mass fatality plans further limited the quality and timeliness of response, a problem which was exacerbated by the absence of practical field guidelines or an international agency providing technical support.
Emergency response should not add to the distress of affected communities by inappropriately disposing of the victims. The rights of survivors to see their dead treated with dignity and respect requires practical guidelines and technical support. Mass fatality management following natural disasters needs to be informed by further field research and supported by a network of regional and international forensic institutes and agencies.
Case studies were conducted to systematically document how the bodies of those killed in the tsunami were managed in Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. Many lessons can be learned, though more research is needed.
Editors' Summary
Some 226,408 people died in the tsunami that hit countries across South Asia on 26 December 2004. As well as providing assistance to the living, a crucially important part of the disaster relief effort was the recovery, identification, and disposal of the dead. However, there is very little consensus about the best way to handle and identify large numbers of bodies. Although natural disasters that kill many people occur frequently, most guidelines for the management of large numbers of dead bodies have come out of the experience gained from transport accidents and from terrorist incidents, and these guidelines are not directly relevant; for example, natural disasters often cause many more deaths than transport accidents or terrorist attacks. It is important for survivors that the bodies of the dead are handled with respect and that the dead are identified so that survivors know what has happened to missing relatives. However, at the same time many people are afraid of what the effect of many dead bodies might be on the living; one belief is that dead bodies are a source of disease. Such a belief can lead to the inappropriately rapid burial of bodies before identification has been done.
Why Was This Study Done?
The tsunami of 2004 provided an opportunity to study four different aspects of how the dead were handled in a number of different countries: how the bodies were recovered, how the bodies were identified, how the bodies were disposed of, and what, if any, were the health effects of the large number of bodies on survivors. The authors wanted to then use the results to make recommendations for use in future natural disasters.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors interviewed in person, in writing, and by E-mail key people involved in the handling of the dead in three of the countries affected by the tsunami: Thailand (where 8,345 people died), Indonesia (where 165,708 people died), and Sri Lanka (where 35,399 people died). The authors discovered that there were a huge number of people and agencies involved in the handling of the dead; for example, in Indonesia 42 different organizations were involved in recovering bodies.
None of the countries had sufficient refrigerated storage available to store bodies until they could be identified. Some effective alternatives were used, such as temporary burial in shallow graves—where the temperature is lower than in the ambient air—with the intention of exhuming the bodies later for identification. However, many bodies were hurriedly buried in mass graves because they were decomposing; these bodies were almost impossible to identify.
Methods and efficiency of identification varied between and within countries. One hospital in Sri Lanka excelled by systematically photographing all bodies brought in and recording sex, height, and personal effects: 87% of the bodies brought here were identified. But in most areas rates of identification were much lower. It seemed that simple methods of identification were the most useful: photographs taken quickly before the bodies started to decompose, dental records, and personal effects found on the bodies. DNA analysis was only useful for a small number of bodies.
When it came to disposal of the bodies, again procedures differed widely, and in some cases were dictated by religious needs—for example, in some Muslim communities all bodies were buried within 24 hours, making counting and identification of the dead very difficult. Mass graves were often used, but these caused problems; for example, haphazard arrangement of the bodies meant that later exhumation and identification would be impossible.
The authors concluded that there was virtually no health impact of the dead bodies on survivors. Other studies found that there were no epidemics among the surviving population, and that most effects were on those who handled bodies in temporary morgues, where there were the expected variety of sharp-implement injuries and mucosal splashes with body fluids, along with heat stress and dehydration due to overuse of personal protective equipment such as respirators.
What Do These Findings Mean?
How efficiently bodies were handled after the tsunami varied widely across and even within countries. The authors conclude that much of this variety was because of a lack of national or local plans for such mass fatalities, along with a lack of practical field guidelines. There was little coordination of all of the different organizations involved. However, in some places bodies were handled very well. The authors drew on their findings to suggest guidelines for the possible future management of large numbers of bodies, and also suggested that further research should be done. Reassuringly, the large numbers of bodies did not cause problems for the survivors, so in the future survivors should be encouraged to systematically identify the dead rather than rushing to bury them because of fear of disease.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• The World Heath Organization has a Web page that brings together much information on the tsunami and its aftermath
• News from the United Nations special envoy for the tsunami can be found on its Web site
• An article published by the Pan American Health Organization called “Disaster Myths That Just Won't Die”
• Field guidelines for managing mass fatality natural disasters developed by an international workshop following the tsunami
PMCID: PMC1472696  PMID: 16737348
12.  Sheep farmer opinions on the current and future role of veterinarians in flock health management on sheep farms: A qualitative study 
Preventive Veterinary Medicine  2013;112(3-4):370-377.
A 2009 UK Government report on veterinary expertise in food animal production highlighted that there was insufficient herd health expertise among veterinarians and lack of appropriate business models to deliver veterinary services to the livestock sector. Approximately two thirds of sheep farmers only contact their veterinarian for emergencies and one fifth have all year round contact. The aim of the current study was to understand sheep farmers’ perception, the current and future role of veterinarians in flock health management using qualitative methodology. The eligibility criteria were male farmers with a flock size of at least 200 adult sheep. Seven focus groups of farmers (n = 45) stratified by three regions and two age groups (≤50 and >50) were conducted. Thematic analysis of the discussions indicated that most farmers considered and used their veterinarian as a fire-fighter, whilst other advice was gathered free of charge when the veterinarian was on the farm for other reasons (typically seeing cattle) or by telephone. A small group of farmers were using their veterinarian or a sheep consultant proactively with regular contact and found this financially beneficial. Farmers indicated that the key barriers to using a veterinarian proactively were inconsistent service, high turnover of veterinarians, lack of expertise of sheep farming among veterinarians and concern about independence of advice. Although economics was also mentioned as a key barrier to using veterinarians more proactively, most farmers did not know where they gained and lost income from their flock; there was heavy reliance on the single farm payment scheme (SPS) and very few farmers kept records from which they could investigate where there were inefficiencies in production. Overall sheep farmers considered sheep farming complex and that each farm was unique and that they themselves were the experts to manage their flock. We conclude that there is an impasse: veterinarians might need to provide consistency and wide expertise beyond knowledge of disease and a model of how flock planning would be financially beneficial but until sheep farmers keep production records flock health planning cannot be rigorous and the financial benefits cannot be evaluated. Given the reliance on SPS by farmers an alternative model would be to require farmers to keep production records to comply with SPS. This might lead to flock health planning being adopted at a faster rate and so develop the UK sheep industry and make it more environmentally sustainable by reducing waste from disease and low productivity.
PMCID: PMC3909466  PMID: 24120236
Sheep; Farmer opinion; Attitude; Perception; Qualitative; Focus group
13.  A multi-site feasibility study for personalized medicine in canines with Osteosarcoma 
A successful therapeutic strategy, specifically tailored to the molecular constitution of an individual and their disease, is an ambitious objective of modern medicine. In this report, we highlight a feasibility study in canine osteosarcoma focused on refining the infrastructure and processes required for prospective clinical trials using a series of gene expression-based Personalized Medicine (PMed) algorithms to predict suitable therapies within 5 days of sample receipt.
Tumor tissue samples were collected immediately following limb amputation and shipped overnight from veterinary practices. Upon receipt (day 1), RNA was extracted from snap-frozen tissue, with an adjacent H&E section for pathological diagnosis. Samples passing RNA and pathology QC were shipped to a CLIA-certified laboratory for genomic profiling. After mapping of canine probe sets to human genes and normalization against a (normal) reference set, gene level Z-scores were submitted to the PMed algorithms. The resulting PMed report was immediately forwarded to the veterinarians. Upon receipt and review of the PMed report, feedback from the practicing veterinarians was captured.
20 subjects were enrolled over a 5 month period. Tissue from 13 subjects passed both histological and RNA QC and were submitted for genomic analysis and subsequent PMed analysis and report generation. 11 of the 13 samples for which PMed reports were produced were communicated to the veterinarian within the target 5 business days. Of the 7 samples that failed QC, 4 were due to poor RNA quality, whereas 2 were failed following pathological review. Comments from the practicing veterinarians were generally positive and constructive, highlighting a number of areas for improvement, including enhanced education regarding PMed report interpretation, drug availability, affordable pricing and suitable canine dosing.
This feasibility trial demonstrated that with the appropriate infrastructure and processes it is possible to perform an in-depth molecular analysis of a patient’s tumor in support of real time therapeutic decision making within 5 days of sample receipt. A number of areas for improvement have been identified that should reduce the level of sample attrition and support clinical decision making.
PMCID: PMC3702405  PMID: 23815880
Personalized medicine; Feasibility trial; Canine; Osteosarcoma; Gene expression; Drug prediction
14.  Implementation of an Intersectoral Program to Eliminate Human and Canine Rabies: The Bohol Rabies Prevention and Elimination Project 
The province of Bohol, located in the Visayas islands region in the Philippines has a human population of 1.13 million and was the 4th highest region for human rabies deaths in the country, averaging 10 per year, prior to the initiation of the Bohol Rabies Prevention and Elimination Project (BRPEP).
The BRPEP was initiated in 2007 with the goal of building a sustainable program that would prevent human rabies by eliminating rabies at its source, in dogs, by 2010. This goal was in line with the Philippine National Rabies Program whose objective is to eliminate rabies by 2020.
The intersectoral BRPEP was launched in 2007 and integrated the expertise and resources from the sectors of agriculture, public health and safety, education, environment, legal affairs, interior and local government. The program included: increasing local community involvement; implementing dog population control; conducting mass dog vaccination; improving dog bite management; instituting veterinary quarantine; and improving diagnostic capability, surveillance and monitoring. Funding was secured from the national government, provincial, municipal and village units, dog owners, NGOs, the regional office of the WHO, the UBS Optimus Foundation, and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control. The BRPEP was managed by the Bohol Rabies Prevention and Eradication Council (BRPEC) under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Bohol. Parallel organizations were created at the municipal level and village level. Community volunteers facilitated the institution of the program. Dog population surveys were conducted to plan for sufficient resources to vaccinate the required 70% of the dogs living in the province. Two island-wide mass vaccination campaigns were conducted followed by “catch up” vaccination campaigns. Registration of dogs was implemented including a small fee that was rolled back into the program to maintain sustainability. Children were educated by introducing rabies prevention modules into all elementary schools in Bohol. Existing public health legislation at the national, provincial, and municipal level strengthened the enforcement of activities. A Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) survey was conducted in 2009 to evaluate the educational knowledge of the population. Increased surveillance was instituted to ensure that dogs traveling into and out of the province were vaccinated against rabies. Human and animal cases of rabies were reported to provincial and national authorities.
Key Results
Within the first 18 months of the BRPEP, human rabies deaths had decreased annually from 0.77 to 0.37 to zero per 100,000 population from 2007–2009. Between October 2008 and November 2010 no human and animal cases were detected. Increased surveillance on the island detected one suspected human rabies case in November 2010 and one confirmed case of canine rabies in April 2011. Two mass vaccination campaigns conducted in 2007 and 2008 successfully registered and vaccinated 44% and 70% of the dogs on the island. The additional surveillance activities enabled a mobilization of mop up vaccination activities in the region where the human and canine case was located. Due to the increased effective and continuous surveillance activities, rabies was stopped before it could spread to other areas on the island. The program costs totaled USD 450,000. Registration fees collected to maintain the program amounted to USD 105,740 and were re-allocated back into the community to sustain the program.
Author Summary
The Province of Bohol, Philippines has eliminated dog and human rabies in less than three years by empowering the community and implementing an intersectoral strategy. In 2006, Bohol ranked 4th highest in the Philippines for human rabies, averaging 10 deaths per year. Launched in 2007, the program utilized a social awareness campaign, dog population control, mass dog vaccination campaigns, improved dog bite management and veterinary quarantine, a new diagnostic laboratory, expanded surveillance, and the inclusion of education modules into the school curriculum. Improving community compliance to existing national and provincial rabies laws and engaging volunteers to help conduct the project was a key to success. The program, led by the Governor of Bohol, was administered through a group of departments working together at a provincial and local level, and supervised through the Office of the Provincial Veterinarian. Financial support came through the Governor and several NGOs including the Global Alliance for Rabies Control. The program is self-sustaining, through a small dog registration fee fed back into the program, through the continuing education of children in their classrooms, and through the dedicated efforts of over 15,000 staff and volunteers throughout the island.
PMCID: PMC3516573  PMID: 23236525
15.  Identifying an outbreak of a novel swine disease using test requests for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome as a syndromic surveillance tool 
Animal disease monitoring and surveillance are crucial for ensuring the health of animals, humans and the environment. Many studies have investigated the utility of monitoring syndromes associated with data from veterinary laboratory submissions, but no research has focused on how negative test results from a veterinary diagnostic laboratory data can be used to improve our knowledge of disease outbreaks. For example, if a diagnostic laboratory was seeing a disproportionate number of negative test results for a known disease could this information be an indication of a novel disease outbreak? The objective of this study was to determine the association between the porcine circovirus associated disease (PCVAD) outbreak in Ontario 2004–2006 and the results of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PPRSV) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the results of PRRSV polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic tests requested by veterinarians.
Retrospective data were collected from the Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario Canada and were comprised of weekly counts of PRRSV ELISA and PRRSV PCR diagnostic tests requested by swine practitioners from 2000–2007. The results of the PRRSV ELISA and PRRSV PCRs were analysed separately in two models using logistic regression with the dependent variables being: the weekly probability of PRRSV ELISA positivity, and the weekly probability of PRRSV PCR positivity, respectively. The weekly probability of PRRSV PCR positivity decreased during the PVCAD outbreak (OR=0.66, P=0.01). The weekly probability of PRRSV ELISA positivity was not associated with the PCVAD outbreak.
The results of this study showed that during the PCVAD outbreak in Ontario from December 2004-May 2006, the probability of a positive PRRSV PCR at the AHL decreased. We conclude that when a decrease in test positivity occurs for a known disease, it may suggest that a new disease agent is emerging in the population. Hence, monitoring the test results of commonly used first-order tests for a known disease (e.g. PRRSV) has the potential to be a unique form of syndromic data for the timely identification of novel disease outbreaks in swine populations.
PMCID: PMC3514316  PMID: 23072647
Swine; Disease surveillance; Laboratory data; Syndromic surveillance; Diagnostic test requests; Test results
16.  Regional Differences of Leptospirosis in Sri Lanka: Observations from a Flood-Associated Outbreak in 2011 
Leptospirosis is known to be an important cause of weather disaster-related infectious disease epidemics. In 2011, an outbreak of leptospirosis occurred in the relatively dry district of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka where diagnosis was resisted by local practitioners because leptospirosis was not known in the area and the clinical presentation was considered atypical. To identify the causative Leptospira associated with this outbreak, we carried out a cross-sectional study. Consecutive clinically suspected cases in this district were studied during a two-and-a-half-month period. Of 96 clinically suspected cases, 32 (33.3%) were confirmed by qPCR, of which the etiological cause in 26 cases was identified using 16S rDNA sequencing to the species level. Median bacterial load was 4.1×102/mL (inter-quartile range 3.1–6.1×102/mL). In contrast to a 2008 Sri Lankan leptospirosis outbreak in the districts of Kegalle, Kandy, and Matale, in which a predominance of Leptospira interrogans serovars Lai and Geyaweera was found, most cases in the 2011 outbreak were caused by Leptospira kirschneri. Seven (21.9%) confirmed cases had acute renal failure; five (15.6%) had myocarditis; severe thrombocytopenia (<20,000/uL) was seen in five (15.6%) cases. This outbreak of leptospirosis in the relatively dry zone of Sri Lanka due primarily to L. kirschneri was characterized by markedly different clinical presentations and low leptospiremia. These observations and data demonstrate the public health relevance of molecular diagnostics in such settings, possibly related to the microgeographic variations of different Leptospira species, but of particular value to public health intervention in what appears to have been a regionally neglected tropical disease.
Author Summary
Leptospirosis outbreaks occur predictably in Sri Lanka after seasonal rains and flooding in the endemic wet zone. Molecular investigations with quantification of a post-flood leptospirosis outbreak in the non-endemic dry zone of Sri Lanka in 2011 suggest variation of biological, clinical, and molecular characteristics compared to previous reported leptospirosis outbreaks in the endemic areas, probably showing a micro-geographic variation of leptospirosis. This work demonstrates the direct clinical and public health relevance of modern molecular diagnostic technologies to identifying an endemic neglected tropical disease where previously not suspected, especially in the resource-poor setting.
PMCID: PMC3894175  PMID: 24454971
17.  A mixed methods inquiry into the validity of data 
Research in herd health management solely using a quantitative approach may present major challenges to the interpretation of the results, because the humans involved may have responded to their observations based on previous experiences and own beliefs. This challenge can be met through increased awareness and dialogue between researchers and farmers or other stakeholders about the background for data collection related to management and changes in management. By integrating quantitative and qualitative research methods in a mixed methods research approach, the researchers will improve their understanding of this potential bias of the observed data and farms, which will enable them to obtain more useful results of quantitative analyses.
Case description
An example is used to illustrate the potentials of combining quantitative and qualitative approaches to herd health related data analyses. The example is based on two studies on bovine metritis. The first study was a quantitative observational study of risk factors for metritis in Danish dairy cows based on data from the Danish Cattle Database. The other study was a semi-structured interview study involving 20 practicing veterinarians with the aim to gain insight into veterinarians' decision making when collecting and processing data related to metritis.
Discussion and Evaluation
The relations between risk factors and metritis in the first project supported the findings in several other quantitative observational studies; however, the herd incidence risk was highly skewed. There may be simple practical reasons for this, e.g. underreporting and differences in the veterinarians' decision making. Additionally, the interviews in the second project identified several problems with correctness and validity of data regarding the occurrence of metritis because of differences regarding case definitions and thresholds for treatments between veterinarians.
Studies where associations between specific herd health management routines and disease outcome variables are drawn based purely on quantitative observational studies may benefit greatly by adding a qualitative perspective to the quantitative approach as illustrated and discussed in this article. The combined approach requires, besides skills and interdisciplinary collaboration, also openness, reflection and scepticism from the involved scientists, but the benefits may be extended to various contexts both in advisory service and science.
PMCID: PMC2500011  PMID: 18647391
18.  Sri Lanka in global medical research: a scientific analysis of the Sri Lankan research output during 2000-2009 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:121.
Scientific research is an essential component in guiding improvements in health systems. There are no studies examining the Sri Lankan medical research output at international level. The present study evaluated the Sri Lankan research performance in medicine as reflected by the research publications output between years 2000-2009.
This study was based on Sri Lankan medical research publication data, retrieved from the SciVerse Scopus® from January 2000 to December 2009. The process of article selection was as follows: Affiliation - 'Sri Lanka' or 'Ceylon', Publication year - 'January 2000 to December 2009' and Subject area - 'Life and Health Sciences'. The articles identified were classified according to disease, medical speciality, institutions, major international collaborators, authors and journals.
Sri Lanka's cumulative medical publications output between years 2000-2009 was 1,740 articles published in 160 different journals. The average annual publication growth rate was 9.1%. Majority of the articles were published in 'International' (n = 950, 54.6%) journals. Most articles were descriptive studies (n = 611, 35.1%), letters (n-345, 19.8%) and case reports (n = 311, 17.9%). The articles were authored by 148 different Sri Lankan authors from 146 different institutions. The three most prolific local institutions were Universities of; Colombo (n = 547), Kelaniya (n = 246) and Peradeniya (n = 222). Eighty four countries were found to have published collaborative papers with Sri Lankan authors during the last decade. UK was the largest collaborating partner (n = 263, 15.1%).
Malaria (n = 75), Diabetes Mellitus (n = 55), Dengue (n = 53), Accidental injuries (n = 42) and Lymphatic filariasis (n = 40) were the major diseases studied. The 1,740 publications were cited 9,708 times, with an average citation of 5.6 per paper. The most cited paper had 203 citations, while there were 597 publications with no citations. The Sri Lankan authors' contribution to the global medical research output during the last decade was only 0.086%.
The Sri Lankan medical research output during the last decade is only a small fraction of the global research output. There it is a necessity to setup an enabling environment for research, with a proper vision, support, funds and training. In addition, collaborations across the region need to be strengthened to face common regional health challenges.
PMCID: PMC3305378  PMID: 22364509
Sri Lanka; Medical research; Publication; Analysis
19.  Determinants of leptospirosis in Sri Lanka: Study Protocol 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:332.
Leptospirosis is becoming a major public health threat in Sri Lanka as well as in other countries. We designed a case control study to determine the factors associated with local transmission of leptospirosis in Sri Lanka, in order to identify major modifiable determinants of leptospirosis. The purpose of this paper is to describe the study protocol in detail prior to the publishing of the study results, so that the readership will be able to understand and interpret the study results effectively.
A hospital based partially matched case control design is proposed. The study will be conducted in three selected leptospirosis endemic districts in central Sri Lanka. Case selection will include screening all acute fever patients admitted to selected wards to select probable cases of leptospirosis and case confirmation using an array of standard laboratory criteria. Age and sex matched group of acute fever patients with other confirmed diagnosis will be used as controls. Case to control ratio will be 1:2. A minimum sample of 144 cases is required to detect 20% exposure with 95% two sided confidence level and 80% power. A pre tested interviewer administered structured questionnaire will be used to collect data from participants. Variables included in the proposed study will be evaluated using conceptual hierarch of variables in three levels; Exposure variables as proximal; reservoir and environmental variables as intermediate; socio-demographic variables as distal. This conceptual hierarch hypothesised that the distal and intermediate variables are mediated through the proximal variables but not directly. A logistic regression model will be used to analyse the probable determinants of leptospirosis. This model will evaluate the effect of same level and upper level variables on the outcome leptospirosis, using three blocks.
The present national control programme of leptospirosis is hampered by lack of baseline data on leptospirosis disease transmission. The present study will be able to provide these essential information for formulation of better control strategies.
PMCID: PMC2994874  PMID: 21087520
20.  Transverse myelitis secondary to Melioidosis; A case report 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:232.
Melioidosis has become an emerging infection in Sri Lanka; a country which is considered non endemic for it. Paraplegia due to Burkholderia pseudomallei is a very rare entity encountered even in countries where the disease is endemic. There are no reported cases of transverse myelitis due to melioidosis in Sri Lankan population thus we report the first case.
Case presentation
A 21 year old farmer presented with sudden onset bi lateral lower limb weakness, numbness and urine retention. Examination revealed flaccid areflexic lower limbs with a sensory loss of all modalities and a sensory level at T10 together with sphincter involvement. MRI of the thoracolumbar spine showed extensive myelitis of the thoracic spine complicating left psoas abscess without definite extension to the spinal cord or cord compression. Burkholderia pseudomallei was isolated from the psoas abscess pus cultures and the diagnosis of melioidosis was confirmed with high titers of Burkholderia pseudomallei antibodies and positive PCR. He was treated with high doses of IV ceftazidime and oral cotrimoxazole for one month with a plan to continue cotrimoxazole and doxycycline till one year. Patient’s general condition improved but the residual neurological problems persisted.
The exact pathogenesis of spinal cord melioidosis is not quite certain except in the cases where there is direct microbial invasion, which does not appear to be the case in our patient. We postulate our patient’s presentation could be due to ischemia of the spinal cord following septic embolisation or thrombosis of spinal artery due to the abscess nearby. A neurotrophic exotoxin causing myelitis or post infectious immunological demyelination is yet another possibility. This emphasizes the necessity of further studies to elucidate the exact pathogenesis in this type of presentations.
Health care professionals in Sri Lanka, where this is an emerging infection, need to improve their knowledge regarding this disease and should have high degree of suspicion to make a correct and a timely diagnosis to reduce the morbidity and mortality due to Burkholderia pseudomallei infection. It is highly likely that this infection is under diagnosed in developing countries where diagnostic facilities are minimal. Therefore strategies to improve the awareness and upgrade the diagnostic facilities need to be implemented in near future.
PMCID: PMC3511196  PMID: 23020820
Melioidosis; Transverse myelitis; Burkholderia pseudomallei; Flaccid paraplegia; Psoas abscess
21.  Operational Experience: Integration of ASPR Data into ESSENCE-FL during the RNC 
The Florida Department of Health (FDOH), Bureau of Epidemiology, partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) to improve surveillance methods in post disaster or response events. A new process was implemented for conducting surveillance to monitor injury and illness for those presenting for care to ASPR assets such as Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) sites when they are operational in the state. The purpose of the current work was to field test and document the operational experience of the newly implemented ASPR data module in ESSENCE-FL (syndromic surveillance system) to receive near real-time automated data feeds when ASPR federal assets were deployed in Florida during the 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC).
Florida has implemented various surveillance methods to augment existing sources of surveillance data and enhance decision making with timely evidence based assessments to guide response efforts post-hurricanes. Historically, data collected from deployed federal assets have been an integral part of this effort. However, a number of factors have made this type of surveillance challenging: logistical issues of field work in a post-disaster environment, the resource intensive manual data collection process from DMAT sites, and delayed analysis and interpretation of these data to inform decision makers. The ESSENCE-FL system is an automated and secure web-based application accessed by FDOH epidemiologists and staff at participating hospitals.
ESSENCE-FL was configured by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) to receive ASPR electronic medical record (EMR) data. A scheduled program to generate data files for FDOH was created using SAS Enterprise Business Intelligence (EBI) software and a script was set up on the ASPR server to send an updated file via secure file transfer protocol (sftp) every 15 minutes. A case definition was created by ASPR field teams to identify which encounter visits would be entered into the electronic medical record (EMR) and received in ESSENCE-FL. To assess completeness of data elements and total patient encounters received in ESSENCE-FL, DMAT field teams maintained Excel line lists of patient encounters and emailed them to FDOH three times daily during the RNC. ASPR data were reviewed and analyzed by FDOH staff multiple times a day in near real time utilizing the existing ESSENCE-FL robust analysis tools.
Three separate ASPR missions were deployed to Florida to support the RNC. ASPR EMR data files were received at 15-minute intervals by ESSENCE-FL from the ASPR central server during each day of the 2012 RNC (August 26–31). Reduced patient counts within ESSENCE-FL as compared with DMAT-maintained Excel line lists indicated an incomplete input, upload, or transfer of patient data from one of two ASPR sites to the central ASPR servers. Although only 11 of 34 total patient encounters were received by ESSENCE-FL during the event, the system design enabled users to run specific queries and display the results of their queries in time series graphs, pie and bar charts, GIS maps, dashboards, and statistical tables.
There is a great need to have timely access to data sources to enhance disease surveillance efforts and help guide decision makers’ situational awareness and disease control efforts during a response. The FDOH, Bureau of Epidemiology’s collaboration with JHU/APL and ASPR takes advantage of ASPR’s EMR-S to make data sharing and analysis efficient as evidenced during the RNC. Automated data feeds to ESSENCE-FL removed resource intensive manual data collection by public health, improved standardization of syndrome and demographic categorizations, increased access to these data by local, state, and federal epidemiologists in a timely manner, and expedited analysis and interpretation for situational awareness. Future recommendations include pre-event testing of the entire data flow process, establishing an on-site specialist to immediately assist with any issues, greater understanding of the field team use of the EMR-S, and ensuring field staff is aware of data quality needs for effective public health surveillance.
PMCID: PMC3692919
surveillance; response; disaster
22.  The Black Canyon Forecast Station: Experiences And Lessons Learned 
To evaluate the sociological effect on indigenous biological event signature recognition and community resilience due to the operational activities of an infectious disease forecast station.
The nation’s first operational infectious disease forecast station, modeled after warning protocols developed in the meteorology community, was activated in 2011. The approach was originally pioneered in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.
We assembled global event signature and forecast libraries that reflected locally diagnosed infectious disease activity and infrastructure impact in a rural community from a public health, veterinary, and human clinical medicine perspective. The deployment site is home to a variety of infectious disease including hantavirus, plague, tularemia, and West Nile in the context of high wildlife-livestock-human interfacing. Information derived from the issuance of forecasts coupled to situational awareness was shared with the public, local officials, public health officers, veterinarians, healthcare providers, and patients through various social media methods.
Provision of 30-60-90 day forecasts for routine and non-routine endemic infectious disease activity and impact facilitated better coordination of public health messaging and daily conversation with patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. The signature of an unusual, infrastructure-disruptive outbreak of metapneumovirus and respiratory syncytial virus was recognized and communicated with enough time to activate effective clinical mitigation protocols. Cost estimates demonstrated financial benefit at a local level to anticipating surges of infectious disease activity with enough time to mitigate patient demand. Community-wide engagement with infectious disease forecasts and live event advisories included the promotion of proactive infection control and public health surveillance and response, healthcare provider recognition of non-routine infectious disease, clinical sampling and diagnostic testing protocols, clinician and patient education, and synchronization of proactive disease reporting both in the routine daily clinical setting and in times of crisis. Collateral benefit of consistent messaging delivered to the public by the participating entities was noted. Community awareness of the repertoire of indigenous infectious disease activity was expanded beyond the official public health notification list. Neither issuance of infectious disease forecasts nor advisories issued during crises triggered an influx of anxious well phone calls or visits to the medical system that was deemed operationally relevant.
Activation of a local infectious disease forecast station modeled after a local weather station promotes routine communication of a broader array of infectious disease activity than that monitored by public health; facilitates proactive, cost effective healthcare; and enabled recognition of unusual, disruptive infectious activity with enough time to enable mitigation of clinical, infrastructure, and financial impact to the community. Routine communication of comprehensive infectious disease forecast and situational awareness information promotes community adaptive fitness to a wide variety of infectious hazards. The results suggest it is possible to transform the traditional public health model of data collection and analysis to one of transparent and open data availability to support innovative reduction in morbidity and mortality.
PMCID: PMC3692870
biosurveillance; forecast; meteorology
23.  Sharing experiences: towards an evidence based model of dengue surveillance and outbreak response in Latin America and Asia 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:607.
The increasing frequency and intensity of dengue outbreaks in endemic and non-endemic countries requires a rational, evidence based response. To this end, we aimed to collate the experiences of a number of affected countries, identify strengths and limitations in dengue surveillance, outbreak preparedness, detection and response and contribute towards the development of a model contingency plan adaptable to country needs.
The study was undertaken in five Latin American (Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru) and five in Asian countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Vietnam). A mixed-methods approach was used which included document analysis, key informant interviews, focus-group discussions, secondary data analysis and consensus building by an international dengue expert meeting organised by the World Health Organization, Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (WHO-TDR).
Country information on dengue is based on compulsory notification and reporting (“passive surveillance”), with laboratory confirmation (in all participating Latin American countries and some Asian countries) or by using a clinical syndromic definition. Seven countries additionally had sentinel sites with active dengue reporting, some also had virological surveillance. Six had agreed a formal definition of a dengue outbreak separate to seasonal variation in case numbers. Countries collected data on a range of warning signs that may identify outbreaks early, but none had developed a systematic approach to identifying and responding to the early stages of an outbreak. Outbreak response plans varied in quality, particularly regarding the early response. The surge capacity of hospitals with recent dengue outbreaks varied; those that could mobilise additional staff, beds, laboratory support and resources coped best in comparison to those improvising a coping strategy during the outbreak. Hospital outbreak management plans were present in 9/22 participating hospitals in Latin-America and 8/20 participating hospitals in Asia.
Considerable variation between countries was observed with regard to surveillance, outbreak detection, and response. Through discussion at the expert meeting, suggestions were made for the development of a more standardised approach in the form of a model contingency plan, with agreed outbreak definitions and country-specific risk assessment schemes to initiate early response activities according to the outbreak phase. This would also allow greater cross-country sharing of ideas.
PMCID: PMC3697990  PMID: 23800243
Dengue outbreaks; Dengue epidemics; Outbreak response; Outbreak detection
24.  The Need for Veterinarians in Biomedical Research 
The number of veterinarians in the United States is inadequate to meet societal needs in biomedical research and public health. Areas of greatest need include translational medical research, veterinary pathology, laboratory-animal medicine, emerging infectious diseases, public health, academic medicine, and production-animal medicine. Veterinarians have unique skill sets that enable them to serve as leaders or members of interdisciplinary research teams involved in basic science and biomedical research with applications to animal or human health. There are too few graduate veterinarians to serve broad national needs in private practice; academia; local, state, and federal government agencies; and private industry. There are no easy solutions to the problem of increasing the number of veterinarians in biomedical research. Progress will require creativity, modification of priorities, broad-based communication, support from faculty and professional organizations, effective mentoring, education in research and alternative careers as part of the veterinary professional curriculum, and recognition of the value of research experience among professional schools’ admissions committees. New resources should be identified to improve communication and education, professional and graduate student programs in biomedical research, and support to junior faculty. These actions are necessary for the profession to sustain its viability as an integral part of biomedical research.
PMCID: PMC2852242  PMID: 19435992
biomedical research; veterinarian; laboratory animal; pathology; public health
25.  A Comprehensive Assessment of Lymphatic Filariasis in Sri Lanka Six Years after Cessation of Mass Drug Administration 
The Sri Lankan Anti-Filariasis Campaign conducted 5 rounds of mass drug administration (MDA) with diethycarbamazine plus albendazole between 2002 and 2006. We now report results of a comprehensive surveillance program that assessed the lymphatic filariasis (LF) situation in Sri Lanka 6 years after cessation of MDA.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Transmission assessment surveys (TAS) were performed per WHO guidelines in primary school children in 11 evaluation units (EUs) in all 8 formerly endemic districts. All EUs easily satisfied WHO criteria for stopping MDA. Comprehensive surveillance was performed in 19 Public Health Inspector (PHI) areas (subdistrict health administrative units). The surveillance package included cross-sectional community surveys for microfilaremia (Mf) and circulating filarial antigenemia (CFA), school surveys for CFA and anti-filarial antibodies, and collection of Culex mosquitoes with gravid traps for detection of filarial DNA (molecular xenomonitoring, MX). Provisional target rates for interruption of LF transmission were community CFA <2%, antibody in school children <2%, and filarial DNA in mosquitoes <0.25%. Community Mf and CFA prevalence rates ranged from 0–0.9% and 0–3.4%, respectively. Infection rates were significantly higher in males and lower in people who denied prior treatment. Antibody rates in school children exceeded 2% in 10 study sites; the area that had the highest community and school CFA rates also had the highest school antibody rate (6.9%). Filarial DNA rates in mosquitoes exceeded 0.25% in 10 PHI areas.
Comprehensive surveillance is feasible for some national filariasis elimination programs. Low-level persistence of LF was present in all study sites; several sites failed to meet provisional endpoint criteria for LF elimination, and follow-up testing will be needed in these areas. TAS was not sensitive for detecting low-level persistence of filariasis in Sri Lanka. We recommend use of antibody and MX testing as tools to complement TAS for post-MDA surveillance.
Author Summary
Lymphatic Filariasis (LF, also known as “elephantiasis”) is a disabling and deforming disease that is caused by parasitic worms that are transmitted by mosquitoes. The Sri Lankan Anti-Filariasis Campaign provided five annual rounds of mass drug administration (MDA) with diethylcarbamazine and albendazole between 2002 and 2006 in all endemic areas (districts or implementation units), and this reduced infection rates to very low levels in all sentinel and spot check sites. Transmission Assessment Surveys (TAS, surveys for filarial antigenemia in primary school children) performed in 2012–2013 (about 6 years after the last round of MDA) showed that all 11 evaluation units in formerly endemic areas easily satisfied a key World Health Organization target for LF elimination programs. More comprehensive surveillance was performed with other tests to assess LF parameters in 19 study sites in the same eight districts. We detected evidence of persistent LF in all districts and evidence of ongoing transmission in several areas. Exposure monitoring (screening for anti-filarial antibodies in primary school children) and molecular xenomonitoring (detecting filarial DNA in mosquito vectors) were much more sensitive than TAS for detecting low level persistence of filariasis in Sri Lanka. These methods are complementary to TAS, and they are feasible for use by some national filariasis elimination programs. Results from this study suggest that TAS alone may not be sufficient for assessing the success of filariasis elimination programs.
PMCID: PMC4230885  PMID: 25393404

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