In case you missed our last post, HALI is working with a few friends from Colorado State University, vector-borne disease experts, to build skills for mosquito sampling, identification, and molecular analysis in HALI's partner lab at the Ifakara Health Institute. The second part of training kicked off yesterday, with Dr. Kading leading a really great workshop on mosquito identification, and lab techniques like blood meal analysis.
Last week, HALI welcomed a few renowned mbu (mosquito) experts to Tanzania. Dr. Rebekah Kading from Colorado State University (CSU), a vector-borne disease specialist with extensive experience in southern Africa and her team from CSU joined HALI and their old friend Dr. Ngege (Brian Bird) for a week-long workshop on mosquito trapping and sampling, species identification, and laboratory techniques (blood meal analysis, etc.).
The team started out in Dar, then headed through Morogoro on the way to Kilombero where our Rift Valley Fever and Brucella (R&B) project field sites are located and where Robert Sumaye has based field vector sites for better understanding the role of mbu in Rift Valley Fever epidemiology.
The workshops are helping 11 HALI team members from Sokoine University of Agriculture and the Ifakara Health Institute refine field and lab skills in the vector-borne disease realm, which will really help move R&B's work forward as we ramp up mbu collection and analytics through the rest of the wet season and into the dry summer months.
The roads turn to clay and vehicles stop in their tracks. Sometimes you just need a little help from friends, in this case some of our pastoralist community members, always willing to lend a hand to a HiLux in need of some shovel work. We are getting some great updates via WhatsApp lately, this time from Goodluck and the livestock sampling team, so stay tuned for more One Health in action!
Once again, Team Popo (the bat team) led by Dr. Popo himself is in the field capturing and sampling bats of all kinds and sizes. They are still testing out some new telescopic poles for mist netting (check out our previous post), this time on smaller insectivorous bats that typically roost in and around people's homes.
This is part of our One Health field diaries series, a collection of content the HALI team shares on WhatsApp and provides a glimpse of all the amazing work this team does from the field to lab and beyond. Keep coming back for more One Health in action soon...
Clinic staff have received supplies to continue collecting samples from patients at our clinics. These supplies include Liquid nitrogen, an essential item for keeping samples cold in storage and so we can test the samples for known and potnetially new viruses.
It can be difficult getting to the clinics during rain seasons but field teams make sure that work does not stop at this important sampling season and samples are in good storage conditions.
To catch a bat sometimes you need a net and sometimes you need a net connected to really, really big poles. Dr. Ndege (Brian Bird) came up with this great idea to get some telescopic poles for our mist nets, since Zika (Dr. Popo - the bat doctor) and the team typically cut their own poles from the bush. It's possible we earn more carbon credits with these new poles, doing our part to keep HALI on the sustainability pathway, but we definitely save a ton of time in set up for capture work. Zika and Chris Kilonzo WhatsApped a few photos to us of their first day in the field together. We think it's love at first sight, but let's wait to see our capture rates.
Slowly but surely, bit by bit, I'm going to invite you to make your your way through my field experience in Tanzania, wherein I teamed up with an amazing bunch of individuals to find out where the bats fly to.
Every evening come dusk (or a little before, truth be told), Eidolon helvum, also know as the straw-colored fruit bats, start swarming above their tree roosts like bees, imagine if you will, but bigger and spread higher and wider across the sky. They circle above you for what seems like an eternity, and then just as you start questioning the wisdom of standing under hundreds of flying bats (and their droppings, but that's when PPE comes into play right?), they spread out and make their way towards lands unknown for yet another night of foraging. No one knows where they are going, just that they go somewhere. No one who sees bats flying around knows where they are coming from, just that they come from somewhere. That's where we stepped in, and decided to unearth us some bat traveling secrets.
And so, the Bat Diaries will chronicle my journey to Morogoro, Udekwa, and Illovo, three vastly different places in Tanzania united by the warmth of the local people, beautiful landscapes, and delicious ugali. Three places where the VISHA team braves the elements of the capricous seasons, to sample bats so we know more about what viruses they're shedding, and when they're more likely to shed them. Except this time, I was lucky enough to tag along with the team, and get to do some bat tracking!
Did I mention only straw-colored fruit bats above? Well, we also sampled the Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus), like the adorable mom bat pictured here.
Sokoine Memorial week is exibited on 12th April every year by Sokoine University of Agriculture to commemorate the death of Hon. Edward Moringe Sokoine, the former Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania. On 10th-13th April 2017, HALI team represented the College of Veterinary and Medical Sciences of Sokoine University of Agriculture at Solomon Mahlangu Campus (SUA) Morogoro. The team demonstrated PREDICT Project activities including, technologies, ideas, discoveries and solutions that will improve food and health sectors in Tanzania using One Health Approach.
Our colleagues at the UC Davis One Health Institute just released an amazing resource for improving health and rural livelihoods all over the world and for budding backyard chicken enthusiasts. The book: Poultry Skills for Improving Rural Livelihoods was developed as a manual for teaching primary and secondary school students how to care for and grow flocks for improved nutrition and other benefits. The book is a really cool collaborative between UC Davis, partners at Heifer International in Nepal, and Tanzania collaborators from Sokoine University of Agriculture.
-Zikankuba Sijali, Sokoine University of Agriculture
The HALI Project is ensuring regular maintenance of the liquid nitrogen (LN) plant for sustainable liquid nitrogen production. Liquid nitrogen is an essential and a best cold chain supply in our environment when planning for sample collection for viral detection. Despite being used frequently through intensifying surveillance activities, the LN plant is still stable and operating in a good condition since 2012 when it was installed.
HALI is working with a star PhD student from UC Davis, Nistara Randhawa, on a project using sensors and satellite collars to track fruit bat movement and migration patterns in areas where our field teams are sampling bats for potentially zoonotic viruses. She shared a great update from the field of her work capturing and collaring fruit bats...
Here are some pictures from yesterday's session. We've got some local people helping hold long bamboo poles so we can catch the bats (else they were flying too high - although more often then not, they just fly over and below the net now). The collaring went smooth (and we used adhesives for one).... The colorful net thing is kind of like a beach house for the bats, where we put them till they get sedated or recovered. Today we sampled 22 bats... tomorrow we sample some more, and then head towards Iringa/Udekwa.
The HALI team is all together (at least most of us) this week in Bagamoyo for a series of data review meetings and workshops for the Viral Sharing and Rift and Brucella Projects. The team is reviewing data collected from these One Health infectious disease surveillance projects and working together on solutions for successful completion of the projects later this year, along with brainstorming about potential publications and new directions this research could lead. Check out a few shots from the meeting kindly provided by Brian Bird, aka Daktari Ndege highlighting some of HALI's work on bat tracking, wildlife sampling, and viral detection.
We are proud of our HALI team presenting at One Health EcoHealth Conference this week in Melbourne, Australia. On Monday, Zikankuba Sijali (Dr. Popo) was part of a panel presentation led by Dr. Jonna Mazet (HALI's co-founder) and gave a great talk titled "Bats and Bushmeat: Targeting high-risk taxa and behaviors for prevention of viral spillover." Later, Professor Rudovick Kazwala (HALI's other co-founder) will be speaking.
You can keep up to date on events at the conference via Twitter using the #oheh2016 hashtag.
Last week our PREDICT Tanzania team with members from HALI partners Ifakara Health Institute, Sokoine University of Agriculture, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization launched the first field-based surveillance operation in the Lake Zone (near the borders with Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda).
Using the One Health approach, the team will sample wildlife, livestock, and people and conduct behavioral risk investigations all in an attempt to better understand mechanisms behind viral spillover and spread and zoonotic disease emergence. The team kicked off the trip with community sensitization meetings in villages to introduce the project and work with community members to identify potential high-risk interfaces for human and animal contact.
Stay tuned for more news from the Lake Zone as this exciting work is just getting started...
HALI's now famous Dr. Popo (Zikankuba Sijali, the bat doctor), Chris Kilonzo, and our newly minted One Health Officer, Alphonce Msigwa have been hard at work scoping sites and sampling wildlife as part of HALI's zoonotic disease investigations for our PREDICT and viral sharing between human and animal populations projects. They've been sending us field updates on a pretty regular basis over WhatsApp, which is proving to be a great tool for real-time situational awareness. Plus with that hardcore encryption it even passes HIPAA standards so is certified secure for protecting the privacy of our stakeholders and research participants.
One of the team's latest updates came from Chita, a small village in the Udzungwa Mountains area of Tanzania where our team has been working with a local health clinic to sample patients with febrile illnesses to find out if there are fevers of unknown origin that may be zoonotic and potentially caused by viruses transmitted by wildlife like bats that often roost in people's homes or from monkeys in local forests where people frequently go to hunt, gather, and spend time. Who doesn't love a forest?
I scraped the pics in this slideshow from our WhatsApp feed and added Zika's captions along with a few of my own for clarity to highlight one day in the life of this bat sampling crew, this time working in a village setting targeting micro bats that roost in the roofs of homes and prove to be quite a nuisance for the Chita residents. Thanks to Zika and our One Health Officer's efforts, the HALI team has been doing a good job sticking up for bats and promoting conservation for the ecosystem services they provide (eating insects and mosquitoes a huge one in an endemic malaria zone). But there is certainly a lot of work to be done to mitigate the risks for disease transmission, even some easy fixes like low cost improvements to homes to prevent the bats from moving in and taking up residence by adding screens and repairing ceiling panels. But low cost is not no cost, so until there is a Chita Champion the HALI team will keep working with the community on zoonotic disease outreach and prevention ideas.
Zena Babu is a HALI administrator and data manager originally from Mwanga, Kilimanjaro. A graduate of SUA, Zena holds a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness and is currently pursuing a masters degree in economics at SUA.
Before joining HALI, she worked for FINCA (Foundation for International Community Assistance) as a business load officer. She also interned with the Major Drilling Tanzania company in Mwanza.
With HALI, Zena manages the finiancial system, budgets, project data and works as a project administrator, helping to coordinate research activities.
Mwokozi Mwanzalila is a HALI field research assistant who grew up in Kipera, a village in Iringa Rural District. Mwokozi was a HALI intern while he completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Community Development at Tumaini University.
He now works on HALI’s Livestock and Climate Change CRSP project, providing livestock health and human nutrition education pastoralist households near Ruaha National Park. Mwokozi has also volunteered with a Village Community Bank project focusing on capacity building for entrepreneurship and with Restless Development providing education on sexual reproductive health and peer advising.
The HALI team presented on the PREDICT Tanzania project at the Nane Nane Agricultural Fair in Morogoro last week.
Nane Nane Day recognizes the economic importance of farmers in Tanzania. "Nane Nane" translates to "eight eight" (August 8th) in Swahili. The Agricultural Fair takes place throughout Tanzania and allows farmers and other agricultural stakeholders (like HALI and PREDICT) to share ideas and showcase their work. The HALI team represented the Sokoine University of Agriculture and PREDICT Project at this year's event. Enjoy a few photos!
- David Wolking
Last week the HALI team published a new article in the journal Pastoralism. The article "Boma to banda - A disease sentinel concept for reduction of diarrhoea" is a culmination of one of HALI's smaller studies designed to complement our larger research objectives and is a really excellent example of our project's collaborative approach to research design and implementation.
Way back in 2007-08, I started working with HALI's UC Davis team on some ideas for a master's research project, ideally something that blended HALI's focus on health sciences with my interests in applied development. We settled on a topic exploring diarrheal diseases in calves and the environmental threat diarrheal calves could pose to children and other pastoralist household members in villages bordering Ruaha National Park. With a tight budget we worked with our partners at Sokoine University in Tanzania to design a project that could piggyback on existing activities working with pastoralists to sample cattle for tuberculosis.
We designed a targeted survey focused on calf and dam management and exposure of calves to pathogens in their environment (a nice complement to HALI's ongoing longitudinal survey focused on household health, socio-economics, and herd health and management), developed protocols for sampling calves and testing fecal samples for two model pathogens (Cryptosporidium and Giardia) that HALI had already detected in water sources in the Ecosystem. Then we set out to explore whether calf diarrhea was a problem, if it was associated with the model pathogens Crypto and Giardia, and what threat calves might pose to their human caretakers, usually women and children (in this community the milking herd with calves and dams is kept close to the home because milk is a critical component of their diets).
Though we didn't have much of a budget, we did manage to hire Asha, a young superstar from Malinzanga village who is now a major asset for HALI on all of our research projects. Asha helped adapt our survey to better address the local context and then after some training ran with it to make it a success. Most importantly, Asha, along with HALI's driver and field technician Erasto (another HALI superstar from one of the local villages in the Pawaga area), provided a trusted link between the research team and households and together made the field work fun, from hanging out with pastoralists over a cup of chai maziwa (milk tea) to dining on freshly roasted sweet potatoes with Sukuma friends. Once the study was underway, Asha and Erasto wrapped up the fieldwork independently with the help of a few friends, enumerators recruited from local villages.
Meanwhile, at Sokoine University in Morogoro, we worked with Professor Kazwala, one of HALI's founders, to identify and train an honors bachelors student in veterinary medicine in the detection of our model pathogens Crypto and Giardia. We were lucky to find Enos Kamani, and he and I worked with HALI's post-doc Deana Clifford to learn protocols for Crypto and Giardia detection and quantification. After some training, Enos took that piece on himself and used the work for his honor's thesis.
With results from Asha, Erasto, and Enos in hand, I worked with the HALI team back at UC Davis (Deana, Woutrina Smith, Terra Kelly, and Jonna Mazet) on analysis and preparation of the final manuscript. For a scrappy team with minimal resources, it turned out pretty well, largely because everyone involved on both the US and Tanzania sides worked their ass off to make it a success. In the end, we managed to demonstrate that diarrheal diseases are in fact a health problem for calves and people in the pastoralist community, that calves do in fact shed pathogenic agents like Crypto and Giardia, and that because of the way calves and other animals like goats and sheep are managed close to the household and interact with children and caretakers there is a lot of opportunity for transmission of these pathogens to people.
To address the applied development interests of the study, we explored the use of calves to act as early warning sentinels for these pathogens and developed an animal sentinel concept for diarrheal diseases that could be a model for pastoralists everywhere. Used in tandem with really basic but effective risk mitigation practices, we proposed a suite of locally appropriate interventions that could be valuable for reducing diarrheal diseases from herd to household (or boma to banda). You can check out the full article at the journal Pastoralism at this link.
But what you wont see in the published article are al the contributions and energy that went into making that final product or the relationships made over the few years the study was active that have since contributed to multiple successes on other HALI projects. Erasto and Asha are still with the HALI team today, both now employed through Sokoine University and with a wide range of experience on multiple project activities. Enos eventually left SUA for Europe for additional studies and we wish him luck.