Transmission of diseases from animals to humans is historical but recently, a new twist has been added to it: introduction and subsequent spread of pathogens into urban populations through livestock commodity value chains. Indeed, the severity of the problem is encapsulated statistically: zoonoses cause a fifth of premature deaths in poor countries-the 13 most severe, including brucellosis, leptospirosis, bovine tuberculosis and rabies, causing 2.4 billion cases of illness and 2.2m deaths annually, more than HIV/AIDS and diarrhea. This has warranted the launch of a project labelled “An Urban Zoo research project” in Kenya (more formally called ‘Epidemiology, Ecology and Socio‐Economics of Disease Emergence in Nairobi’) to track pathogen flows in and around Kenya’s capital city. The focus of the project is on livestock as sources of pathogens because emerging diseases are likely to be zoonotic in origin and because these pathogens, through close interactions between livestock, their products and people, are at high of risk crossing the species barrier. The project takes a ‘landscape genetics’ approach to understanding how environmental and socio-economic factors affect distribution and spread of E. coli.
The Urban Zoo project is a coming together of nine core academic partners in Kenya and the UK—the University of Nairobi, the University of Liverpool, the University of Edinburgh, University College London, the Royal Veterinary College, the International Institute for Environment and Development, the ILRI, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, and Kenya’s African Population and Health Research Center as well as non-governmental and international organizations and community groups, including the Kenya Zoonotic Disease Unit (ZDU).