Field Diary: Two New Projects

This field blog is written by Kelley Pascoe, who recently traveled to Tanzania with HALI Co-Directors Jonna Mazet and Woutrina Smith. Read more about Kelley

January 30, 2015

With new funding from generous donors, the HALI Team is back at it again with two new projects in Tanzania that are looking into bacterial and viral sharing across human and animal populations in geographic areas of high climatic and animal diversity. 

Malaria is a household name in Tanzania, and the center of attention in health communities throughout the country. It’s high prevalence historically increased awareness and action against the disease. Although the parasite still infects and affects many throughout Tanzania it is not the only febrile illness in the country. By partnering with local clinics in rural areas the HALI project is hoping to characterize and analyze other potential causes of diseases like bacteria and viruses that could be causing febrile symptoms in patients alongside or instead of malaria. But first, the clinics have to be identified and assessed.

This week, the HALI team has been visiting several health centers and clinics in the Kilombero and Iringa districts to assess their facilities with the hope of partnering for future sample collection. At each clinic the HALI team is looking for several key factors that will help to ensure successful sample and data collection. They are looking for both an adequate patient caseload of patients presenting with febrile illness symptoms and also for clinic laboratory settings to determine whether or not each facility has the ability to test for other zoonotic agents that could be causing the febrile symptoms.  One added bonus is that the clinics are close to either the SUA or IHI labs where more in depth analysis and testing could be done.

From what we’ve seen so far, most clinics throughout the three regions are extremely familiar with both Malaria and Typhoid fever. They are not as comfortable, however, diagnosing or identifying other febrile illnesses like RVFV and Brucella, which may also be affecting the local populations. Our team is looking to explore the prevalence of these other diseases along with potentially identifying novel viruses and potential disease causing agents in the area to see if there has been cross over between the animal and human populations. In addition to increasing awareness in local populations about zoonotic diseases, the HALI team also aims to develop models that will predict areas of increased pathogen activity, transmission and economic diversity to target areas in Tanzania that are ideal for surveillance and interventions designed to improve disease prevention and heath.