Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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Why did Rollins researchers cross the road?

Story Photo

Photography by Karen Levy

To study chickens, of course. Drs. Karen Levy and Matthew Freeman are examining the link between poultry production and enteric diseases in children under age 5 in low-income countries.

The study builds off recent studies that showed improved water, sanitation, and hygiene in low-resource settings did not necessarily translate into better health for children. Animal feces is a logical culprit. Levy and Freeman, both associate professors in environmental health, reviewed literature to find out which pathogens carried by which animals caused the most harm to children. Chickens, carrying Campylobacter and Salmonella, came out on top.

At the same time, chicken farming is being widely promoted globally as a way to improve nutrition and income. “Chickens are easy to raise, have a high protein content, and have good economic development potential,” says Levy.

So, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Levy and Freeman are looking at chicken production in Mozambique, one of the many countries where poultry agriculture is ubiquitous. They will look at the entire poultry production system—from eggs to carcass—to assess high-risk points.

“For example, we think the marketplace is a place that’s been largely ignored, and it may be a hotspot,” says Levy. That’s because these markets have live or freshly slaughtered chickens, and they typically use the same water to rinse the chickens all day long. There are a lot of opportunities for people to come in contact with chicken waste.

“Together, Campylobacter and Salmonella are estimated to cause more than 100,000 deaths annually and are responsible for about 14 percent of deaths due to diarrhea worldwide, most of which occur in children,” says Levy. “Finding new ways to limit these infections by improving food safety could help make a dent to improve child health globally.”

Related Links

Freeman Research Group -- Research in water, sanitation, and hygiene

Freeman Research Group - Animal Feces Exposure


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