IDReC and University of Glasgow researchers establish an African Leptospirosis Network

There is growing evidence of a substantial burden of human leptospirosis in Africa but it is rarely considered as a differential diagnosis for acute febrile illness, and there is little access to diagnostic services for leptospirosis on the continent. Research efforts have remained fragmented with researchers often working in isolation, and little sustainable investment in disease-specific infrastructure or expertise in many African countries.
Collectively, we have identified a need to bring together researchers and other professionals, interested in leptospirosis in Africa who would benefit from international support and collaboration. In early 2016 a virtual African Leptospirosis Network was founded by Dr Jackie Benschop, co-director mEpiLab, Massey University and Dr Kathryn Allan, Wellcome Trust Veterinary Training Fellow, University of Glasgow.  Dr Allan’s work in Northern Tanzania has identified that cattle appear to be important sources of human infection. One serovar identified from cattle in this area, Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar Hardjo is an important cause of human leptospirosis in farming communities around the world, including in New Zealand.
Dr Benschop is a steering committee member of the World Health Organisation’s Global Leptospirosis Environmental Action Network and investigates food safety risks in Northern Tanzanian. The African Leptospirosis Network currently has 41 members from academia, clinical practice, government and non-governmental agencies and others. Founding members were based predominantly in institutions outside the continent but increasingly colleagues based in public health, laboratories, veterinary, and academic institutions within Africa are joining.
Work to date has included identification of new members, preparing a proposal for the WHO to support the network, document sharing, linking colleagues with mentors and a submission of an abstract to a One Health meeting. Future plans are focused on capacity building and include protocol sharing and seeking funding support to identify and address knowledge gaps in our understanding of leptospirosis in Africa.

Picture : A cattle market in Northern Tanzania, which Dr Jackie Benschop visited in early 2016.

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