Improving Smallholder Pig Production and Health in Eastern and Southern Africa
The tape worm Taenia solium is transmitted from pigs (cysticercosis: encysted larval stages) to humans (taeniosis: adult tape worm) through undercooked or raw pork. The adult worms excrete eggs that may in turn infect pigs. However, if humans inadvertently ingest the eggs they too will suffer from cysticercosis or neurocysticercosis (NCC) which can lead to epileptic seizures. As the production of pigs has gone up cysticercosis has emerged as a serious public health and agricultural problem in eastern and southern Africa (ESA). Medical treatment of NCC can be problematic and prevention is therefore essential. The study found 31% and 35% of pigs to have cysticercosis in Mbeya region, Tanzania and Angonia district, Mozambique, respectively. In Tanzania, the prevalence of human taeniosis was 5% whereas 17% had cysticercosis. In Mozambique, 15% of the humans had cysticercosis. Among human study subjects with active cysticercosis 64% (Tanzania) and 72% (Mozambique) had CT-scans indicative of NCC. Epilepsy was found to be very common and strongly associated with NCC. Potential risk factors for cysticercosis in pigs included poor husbandry practices (especially free ranging pigs that have access to human faeces), cooking practices, lack of meat inspection, and lack of basic knowledge on disease transmission and prevention. At the village level, people were aware of the cysts in the pigs but misconceptions and prejudice were common and gave rise to discrimination and stigmatization of people affected by epilepsy. In conclusion, T. solium cysticercosis/taeniosis appears endemic in the regions and there is a great need for further education of farmers and communities with respect to T. solium health issues and for improving pig production systems and livelihoods. Recommendations formulated within the project have been used for increased advocacy among stakeholders and policy makers.