A new diagnosis decision tool could improve the clinical diagnosis of endemic bovine infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.

A new diagnosis decision tool could improve the clinical diagnosis of endemic bovine infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.

Prof Mark EislerResearch in Uganda has shown the low-cost tool could lead to a “significant improvement” in clinical practice by veterinarians and animal health officers.

Mark Eisler, chair in global farm animal health in the school of veterinary sciences at the University of Bristol, led an international team to evaluate the effectiveness of the tool.

The results of their research were published in international, peer-reviewed, open-access online scientific journal PLoS ONE on July 12, 2012.

Improved diagnosis is necessary for the effective management of endemic cattle diseases in the region. However, a lack of suitably trained professionals and a general lack of knowledge about disease among farmers make effective management difficult.

Researchers found a number of parasites in cattle within the study area, including intestinal nematode worms, an animal form of sleeping sickness transmitted by the tsetse fly.

Cattle with Ugandan farmers and a veterinary health officer - copyright Prof Mark Eisler.The team also observed numerous tick-borne blood parasites as well as liver and blood flukes transmitted by intermediate host snails living in swamps and marshland. These parasites cause a wide range of severe illnesses in cattle that can be difficult to distinguish and require different treatments.

Fifteen participants undertaking primary health care in five districts in Uganda took part in the study, recording diagnoses for more than 1,400 bovine clinical cases seen before and after the introduction of the diagnostic tool.

The low-cost tool itself was implemented as a simple printed card that related each of eight key diseases to a number of clinical signs.

Prof Eisler said: “Reassuringly the diagnostic decision support tool covered the majority of diagnoses made before or after its introduction.

“Our most important finding was a significant increase in the number of clinical signs recorded, suggesting improvement in clinical examination as a key beneficial consequence of its use.

“It may also advise of a specific disease in a geographical area and be a useful epidemiological tool in poorly resourced areas,” he added.

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