Robbie McDonald, Jared Wilson-Aggarwal and George Swan (ESI, UoE), 7 Dec. 2016:

Tackling the Reservoir Dogs: Eradicating Guinea worm

Guinea worm Dracunculus medinensis is a disabling and agonisingly painful parasite, for which humans are the definitive host. It is set to be only the second human pathogen to be globally eradicated. Basic public health control measures, led by The Carter Center and World Health Organisation, have reduced global incidence of human cases by more than 99.99% from 3.5 million in 1986 to only 22 in 2015. Right at the last minute, however, a substantial reservoir of infection has been discovered in domestic dogs, principally in Chad in Central Africa. How can this infection be tackled in this newly discovered reservoir, in order to bring about eradication of the worm? Our recent pilot project, conducted for The Carter Center and WHO, examined the basic ecology of dogs naturally infected by Guinea worm living in the worst affected area, alongside the Chari River in Chad. By using GPS tracking and stable isotopes, as well as basic epidemiological investigations of dogs and dog owners, we are finding out the basic ecology of hosts in this emerging disease system. In the face of uncertainty and urgency, we are also gathering evidence for the best way to intervene immediately, in order to bring about global eradication of this devastating disease in the next 2-3 years.