Coronavirus monitoring: a concrete application of the One Health approach in Cambodia

On Southeast Asiathe consumption of wild meat it is widespread, and may be the source of transmission of the virus to humans. It is also from this region that the SARS-Cov-2 virus causing the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is on these questions and more specifically on the surveillance and early detection of pathogens harbored by wild animals that the ZooCov project, coordinated by CIRAD, has been studying for a year and a half in Cambodia.

Combine health problems andanimal, human and environmental

Launched at the start of the pandemic, with funding from theNational Research Agency and the Occitanie region, ZooCov focused on four lines of research :

  1. Identify and analyze bushmeat trade chains in two pilot areas;
  2. analyze the consumption practices of this bushmeat;
  3. Document:
    • the betacoronavirus diversity circulating on the animals consumed as well as on certain colonies of bats and rodents present in the study areas;
    • mehuman exposure to these betacoronaviruses;
    • the risk factors for exposure of men to these betacoronaviruses;
  4. develop a Methodological framework for early detection transmission of betacoronavirus to humans.

Two years later, the project delivers its first results.

The first of his successes refers to the concrete implementation of the One Health approach, consisting of combining the topics of animal health, human health and environmental health. This type of approach will allow strategies to be put in place to prevent the appearance of diseases, particularly zoonotic ones, before human populations begin to be affected.

This work was originally possible thanks to the support from the three Cambodian ministries in question: Agriculture, Environment and Health. This support made it possible to establish an international collaboration between seventeen partners – research organisations, NGOs, universities, private institutes, etc. – covering the fields of ecology, conservation, social sciences, epidemiology and virology*.

samples taken in more than 2,100 animals and 1,000 people

It is within this fruitful multidisciplinary framework that the teams were able to describe trade channels. Scientists have identified the main species hunted and consumed, the pathogens in circulation, as well as the people who are most in contact with these animals and, therefore, those who are most at risk of becoming infected.

The researchers thus took samples from more than 2100 animals – rodents, civets, monkeys, bats, deer, etc. These samples were tested for coronavirus and 24 tested positive (1.1%), including some for viruses similar to Sars-Cov2.

In parallel, samples were taken from more than 1,000 people to quantify their exposure to these pathogens. These were also questioned in the framework of sociological surveys about their consumption or hunting practices and about what motivated or limited these practices.

The integration of a sociological approach, one of the key elements of the projet

The integration of the social sciences since the launch of the project constitutes a second outstanding success, which has allowed the development an important anthropological component.

Through these surveys, the project now collects results on people’s perception of the bushmeat trade and the associated risks to which they are exposed, or on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on farming practices. hunting and/or consumption.

For example, in one of the study provinces, of 107 households visited, 77% of the population declared having consumed bushmeat in the previous month. Another striking result in another area, close to 80% of the population is in contact with and exposed to wildlifeduring various activities: consumption, sale and hunting of wildlife, activity of rangers or foresters.

Interviews with wildlife trade regulators were key to the project. © V. Chevalier, CIRAD

These quantified results will serve as anchor point for future integrated monitoring network of which CIRAD and its partners laid the first foundations, in the sense of the One Health approach. ” We start from a wildlife surveillance network piloted by the WCSexplains Véronique Chevalier, CIRAD veterinarian and project coordinator. We evaluated the sensitivity of this network, that is, its ability to detect the circulation of these pathogens.. »

Finally, the legal framework that regulates this trade in Cambodia, and the actor positioning – rangers, traders, authorities, but also consumers and hunters – in relation to this framework, were examined. This is to ultimately achieve better integration, acceptability and sustainability of this monitoring.

Results that pave the way for projects long range

The project team is now examining several areas for improvement. To do this, scientists rely on data on people most at risk or seasonal spikes in the circulation of these betacoronaviruses.

One of these improvements will be combine this wildlife monitoring network with human health monitoring called “syndromic”, that is, based on the detection of general symptoms such as fever or cough.

Other tracks like a ecological monitoring or a active serological surveillance in wild and/or domestic animals they will be evaluated as part of larger projects that will be based, among other things, on the results of Zoocov.

the BCOMING ProjectIn particular, it will deal with issues of Biodiversity Conservation with the idea of ​​mitigating the risk of the appearance of infectious diseases. It will be financed by the Horizon Europe program with a budget of 6 million euros and coordinated by CIRAD.

* CIRAD partners in the framework of the ZooCov project

  • BirdLife International Center for Disease Control Cambodia
  • National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)
  • france high school
  • Elephant Livelihoods Initiative Environment (ELIE)
  • Fauna and Flora International (FFI)
  • Hong Kong University (HKU)
  • Pasteur Institute of Cambodia (IPC)
  • Research Institute for Development (IRD)
  • International Development Company (iDE)
  • Jahoo, World Hope International
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Forestry Administration of Cambodia
  • Ministry of Environment of Cambodia
  • Cambodian Ministry of Health
  • FAT network
  • Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
  • World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

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