New study shows Nigerian cattle carry zoonotic pathogens with implications for human health

A recent paper from Sue Welburn’s lab in the Division of Infection and Pathway Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, has shown that native Fulani cattle in Nigeria are not only infected with a variety of bovine tick-borne diseases (TBDs), but also carry human and canine pathogens.

The Fulani cattle are mostly reared in the North-Central region of Nigeria and are the main source of income for their keepers.  Under the Fulani traditional management system, there is no chemical control of ectoparasites, and ticks are manually removed from livestock by their herders.

Out of 704 animals sampled in the study, bovine tick-borne pathogens were found in 80% of the cattle.  Significantly, the results also demonstrated for the first time that Nigerian cattle carry human (Rickettsia massiliae) and canine (Anaplasma platys) tick-borne pathogens.

These findings have may have profound implications for disease and infection in the human pastoralist populations who care for the cattle and may be exposed to tick bites.  Local physicians and those dealing with travelers returning from Nigeria, need to be made aware of zoonotic pathogens when making differential diagnosis of flu-like syndromes.

Lead author of the study, Dr Vincenzo Lorusso, said:

The study has also provided deeper understanding of the nature and extent of the TBDs carried by the Fulani cattle, which will inform the design of effective diagnosis and targeted control strategies for bovine TBDs in Nigeria, and possibly other West African countries".

This work was conducted at the University of Edinburgh in partnership with the Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR), the Nigerian National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) and the FAO Reference Centre for Tick-borne diseases at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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