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1.  Prevalence and molecular characterisation of Eimeria species in Ethiopian village chickens 
Background
Coccidiosis, caused by species of the apicomplexan parasite Eimeria, is a major disease of chickens. Eimeria species are present world-wide, and are ubiquitous under intensive farming methods. However, prevalence of Eimeria species is not uniform across production systems. In developing countries such as Ethiopia, a high proportion of chicken production occurs on rural smallholdings (i.e. 'village chicken production’) where infectious diseases constrain productivity and surveillance is low. Coccidiosis is reported to be prevalent in these areas. However, a reliance on oocyst morphology to determine the infecting species may impede accurate diagnosis. Here, we used cross-sectional and longitudinal studies to investigate the prevalence of Eimeria oocyst shedding at two rural sites in the Ethiopian highlands.
Results
Faecal samples were collected from 767 randomly selected chickens in May or October 2011. In addition, 110 chickens were sampled in both May and October. Eimeria oocysts were detected microscopically in 427 (56%, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 52-59%) of the 767 faecal samples tested. Moderate clustering of positive birds was detected within households, perhaps suggesting common risk factors or exposure pathways. Seven species of Eimeria were detected by real time PCR in a subset of samples further analysed, with the prevalence of some species varying by region. Co-infections were common; 64% (23/36, 95% CI 46-79%) of positive samples contained more than one Eimeria spp. Despite frequent infection and co-infection overt clinical disease was not reported. Eimeria oocysts were detected significantly more frequently in October (248/384, 65%, 95% CI 60-69%), following the main rainy season, compared to May (179/383, 47%, 95% CI 42-52%, p < 0.001). Eimeria oocyst positivity in May did not significantly affect the likelihood of detecting Eimeria oocyst five months later perhaps suggesting infection with different species or immunologically distinct strains.
Conclusions
Eimeria spp oocysts may be frequently detected in faecal samples from village chickens in Ethiopia. Co-infection with multiple Eimeria spp was common and almost half of Eimeria positive birds had at least one highly pathogenic species detected. Despite this, all sampled birds were free of overt disease. Although there was no evidence of a difference in the prevalence of oocysts in faecal samples between study regions, there was evidence of variation in the prevalence of some species, perhaps suggesting regional differences in exposure to risk factors associated with the birds, their management and/or location-specific environmental and ecological factors.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-208
PMCID: PMC3852846  PMID: 24125076
Eimeria; Coccidiosis; Village chickens; Ethiopia; Molecular characterisation
2.  Cattle producers’ perceptions of biosecurity 
Background
The limited use of biosecurity practices by many in the farming community is likely to be due to a range of factors; further understanding of this issue is required. In this study, attitudes and behaviours of producers relating to selected biosecurity practices and the farming industry were studied by interviewing cattle farmers within a 100 km2 study area in north-west England using an interview-based questionnaire.
Results
Most producers appeared to be familiar with the broad concept of the term biosecurity, although risks due to indirect contacts, rather than direct (animal) contacts, were more frequently highlighted. Most producers felt the nominated biosecurity practices were in some way useful, however there was not always agreement between the usefulness of a practice and it being undertaken, and vice versa. In agreement with other studies conducted in the UK, farmers most preferred to obtain information and advice on biosecurity from private veterinarians, but also highlighted DEFRA as a source.
Conclusions
This study highlights the importance of understanding the motivators and barriers behind the uptake of biosecurity practices on farms, as perceptions are variable. Further understanding of these issues is needed in order to more effectively communicate information in regards to herd health and disease prevention. By identifying differences in producers’ attitudes, programs can be tailored specifically to individuals’ needs.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-71
PMCID: PMC3626881  PMID: 23574789
Cattle; Cow; Cows; Bovine; Biosecurity; Prevention; Attitudes; Motivators; Barriers; Perception; Risk
3.  A randomized triple blind trial to assess the effect of an anthelmintic programme for working equids in Morocco 
Background
Gastro-intestinal parasitism has been identified as a significant cause of disease in working equids in many countries. This randomized triple-blind trial was designed to assess the impact of an anthelmintic treatment programme (using oral ivermectin and fenbendazole) comparing treated and placebo control populations of working donkeys, mules and horses in field conditions in Morocco. In particular, we assessed animal body weight and condition score, together with a questionnaire-based owner evaluation of number of subjective animal health parameters. Faecal worm egg count was also measured.
Results
239 animals completed the full study, 130 in the treatment group and 109 in the control group. Although the average animal weight increased during the study, this change was not significantly different between the two groups. Animals in the treatment group had a significantly lower strongyle worm egg count and increased in body condition score compared to animals in the control group at each examination during the study period. Owners of animals in the treatment group reported improvement in health and work ability and a beneficial effect on pruritus during the early period of the study. These differences in owner perception between treatment groups had disappeared in the latter stages of the study.
Conclusion
This study demonstrated that a routine anthelmintic treatment programme of three treatments annually can have a significant effect on faecal worm egg count. There may be beneficial consequences for the animal health and productivity. Further research on other populations of working equids in different environments would facilitate the objective planning of effective parasite control strategies for specific situations and provide better understanding of the likely clinical benefits of such programmes.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-7-1
PMCID: PMC3022536  PMID: 21208398
4.  Trypanosomosis in The Gambia: prevalence in working horses and donkeys detected by whole genome amplification and PCR, and evidence for interactions between trypanosome species 
Background
The Gambia has an increasing population of equidae largely used for agriculture and transportation. A review of cases at The Gambian Horse and Donkey Trust (GHDT) indicated that a common reason for presentation is a poorly defined medical condition often attributed to trypanosomosis. There are few reports describing the prevalence or the range of clinical signs associated with infection with different species of trypanosomes in horses and donkeys, but given the importance of these animals, the role of trypanosomosis requires investigation.
Results
In total 241 animals from the Central River Division in The Gambia (183 horses and 58 donkeys) were screened using Whole Genome Amplification (WGA) followed by trypanosome species identification using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The results indicated overall trypanosome prevalence of 91%; with an infection rate of 31% for Trypanosoma congolense Savannah, 87% for Trypanosoma vivax and 18% for Trypanosoma brucei sp. Multiple species were present in 43% of infections. Microscopy had a good specificity (100%) and positive predictive value (100%) for trypanosome detection, but the sensitivity (20%) and negative predictive value (10.5%) were low relative to PCR-based diagnosis.
Infection with T congolense showed the greatest negative effect on packed cell volume (PCV), while infection with T. brucei sp also had a significant, although lesser, negative effect on PCV. In addition, cases positive by microscopy were associated with significantly lower PCV. However, concurrent infection with T. vivax appeared to cause less effect on PCV, compared to animals infected with T. congolense alone.
Conclusion
The prevalence of Trypanosomosis was high in both horses and donkeys. Infection with T. congolense appeared to have the greatest clinical significance, while T. vivax infection may be of limited clinical significance in this population. Indeed, there is evidence of T. vivax co-infection ameliorating the pathology caused by T. congolense. WGA and PCR allowed a more comprehensive analysis of field infections with the detection of infections below the threshold of microscopy, and provided indications of interactions between parasite species that would otherwise remain undetected. The study raises important questions about the epidemiology of trypanosome infection in relation to disease that require a full scale longitudinal analysis.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-4-7
PMCID: PMC2263031  PMID: 18289378
5.  Factors associated with dog ownership and contact with dogs in a UK community 
Background
Dogs are popular pets in many countries. Identifying differences between those who own dogs or have contact with dogs, and those who do not, is useful to those interested in the human-animal bond, human health and for provision of veterinary services. This census-based, epidemiological study aimed to investigate factors associated with dog ownership and contact with dogs, in a semi-rural community of 1278 households in Cheshire, UK.
Results
Twenty-four percent of households were identified as dog-owning and 52% owned a pet of some type. Multivariable logistic regression suggested that households were more likely to own a dog if they had more occupants (five or more); if they had an adult female household member; or if they owned a horse. The age structure of the households was also associated with dog ownership, with households containing older children (between six and 19 years of age) and young adults (between 20 and 29 years of age), more likely to own dogs. We also found that dog owning households were more likely to be multi-dog households than single-dog if they also owned a cat or a bird, or if the household contained a person of 20–29 years old. Dog owners reported increased contact with dogs, other than their own, compared to those that did not own dogs and this contact appeared to be mainly through walking.
Conclusion
Some household types are more likely to own a dog than others. This study supports the suggestion that dogs are more common in families who have older children (6–19 years), as has been generally observed in other countries. Dog owners are also more likely to have contact with dogs other than their own, compared with those not owning a dog.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-3-5
PMCID: PMC1852100  PMID: 17407583

Results 1-5 (5)