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Wild animal trade for human consumption is a global issue, involving complex interactions between economics, culture, food security and conservation. Whilst being a biodiversity issue, it is also a major public health concern, with recent epidemics and pandemics of zoonotic pathogens linked to interactions with wildlife. At three time points, between March 2017 and June 2018, a longitudinal sero-survey of 150 market vendors from three wet markets in Laos (selling vegetables, domestic animal meat and/or wildlife meat) was conducted to determine if vendors had been differentially exposed to three endemic bacterial pathogens – Orientia tsutsugamushi, Rickettsia typhi, and Leptospira spp. A total of 367 serum samples were tested by IgG enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and immunofluorescence assay (IFA, for scrub typhus group (STG) and typhus group (TG) only). Among vendors, 32.7% were IgG-positive for at least one pathogen, 13.3% sero-converted during the study. Multi-season occupancy modelling for STG indicated a significantly higher prevalence of STG IgG in vegetable vendors (27.3%) and wildlife vendors (28.4%) than in domestic animal meat vendors (6.9%, p = 0.05), and higher in Phonsavanh market (OR = 9.6, p = 0.03) compared to Lak Sao and Salavan markets. Estimated mean incidence was 57 cases per 10,000 per 7.5-month period. For TG, vendor age had a significant effect on prevalence (OR = 1.04, p = 0.006), estimated mean incidence was 64 cases per 10,000 per season (7.5-month period). Despite individuals selling domestic meat having a higher prevalence of Leptospira infections than those that did not (11.6% versus 4.5%), the difference was not significant. Whilst this study has a number of limitations, including vendors changing what food types they sold and no investigation of exposure outside of markets, the finding that the risk of exposure of vendors to zoonotic pathogens may be associated with types of food sold for human consumption warrants further investigation.

Original publication




Journal article


One Health

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