Zoologists calls for awareness on Emerging Zoonotic Infections in Pakistan

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A workshop was organized by Principal Investigators HEC-BC INSPIRE Project Professor Dr. Syed Akram Shah and Professor Dr. Naheed Ali, Chairperson, Department of Zoology, University of Peshawar at the beautiful summer campus of Peshawar University at 7600 feet elevation. The theme of the workshop was “Emerging Zoonotic Infections in Pakistan with special reference to Vector Borne Diseases”.  Zoonotic diseases represent one of the leading causes of illness and death from infectious disease.

Defined by the World Health Organization, zoonoses are those diseases and infections that are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and human with or without an arthropod intermediate. H1N1 (“swine flu”), SARS, mad cow disease, cutaneous leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania major, Hydatid cyst disease, TB caused by Mycobaterium bovis and HIV/AIDS are a few examples of zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are a growing concern given multiple factors: their often novel and unpredictable nature, their ability to emerge anywhere and spread rapidly around the globe, and their major economic toll on several disparate industries. Worldwide, zoonotic diseases have a negative impact on commerce, travel, and economies. In most developing countries, zoonotic diseases are among those diseases that contribute significantly to an already overly burdened public health system.

In an effort to increase our knowledge and understanding of current and probable future public health significance of zoonotic diseases, Department of Zoology, University of Peshawar organized a three-day workshop on June 27-30, 2013. The resource persons in this workshop explored the forces that drive zoonotic diseases to prominence, and sought to identify more broad-based strategies and research programs that need to be developed for better understanding of re-emerging zoonotic infections.

About 45 MPhil/PhD scholars, BS (Hons), MSc students, Students from Leishmaniasis endemic Khyber agency, officials of KP Wildlife department and teachers participated in this workshop. The inauguration of the workshop was performed by Professor Dr. M. Aslam Khan, Professor & Head, Department of Human Genetics & Molecular Biology University of Health Sciences Lahore; & Honorary Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine, University of Liverpool, UK, as Professor Dr. M. Rasool Jan, Vice Chancellor University of Peshawar was unable to come due to urgent meeting with Governor (Chancellor) of KP.   All the participants took keen interest in listening and noting the lectures on variety of vector borne Zoonotic infections and were sitting from 9.0 AM to 4.30 PM in the main lecture hall. Professor Zaigham Hasan was the main attraction for the audience, as after every lecture he was throwing flowers of poetry as stage secretary. Dr. Syed Basit Rasheed was another main stimulus moving continuously in the hall from one corner to another keeping the audience insomniac after lunch. Overall this workshop was a consortium of diverse expertise ranging from mosquito -borne Zoonotic infections to sand fly borne Leishmaniasis.

The following scientists/faculty presented their research work in this workshop.

  1. Vector-borne infections
    Professor Dr. Muhammad Suleman, Chairman Department of Microbiology, Hazara University Mansehra                                                                                                                                              
  2. Vector-borne Viral Diversity of Pakistan Professor Dr. M. Aslamkhan, Professor & Head, Department of Human Genetics & Molecular Biology University of Health Sciences Lahore; & Honorary Senior Lecturer in the School  of Medicine, University of Liverpool, UK.     
  3. Population structure of Leishmania tropica using multilocus microsatellite analysis Dr. Nazma Habib PhD, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK         `         
  4. Assessment of exposure and infection of malaria in Afghan Refugees Dr. Sobia Wahid PhD, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK                                          
  5. Common wild life reservoirs of zoonotic infections in KP Pakistan Safdar Ali Shah, Conservator of Wildlife, Khyber Pakhtukhwa                                                     
  6. Current status of cutaneous leishmaniasis in KP Pakistan Professor Dr. Syed Akram Shah, Department of Zoology, University of Peshawar                          
  7. Flies as Forensic indicators: Preliminary Reports from Peshawar Dr. Farrah Zaidi, Lecturer, Department  of Zoology (PhD, Zhejiang University, China)                           
  8. Population structure of dengue vector in Pakistan Dr. Syed Basit Rasheed, Assistant Professor, Department  of  Zoology (PhD. University of Sheffield, UK)
  9. Biological Control of some vector borne diseases: A review Professor Zaigham Hasan, Assistant Professor Dept. of Zoology                                                      
  10. An ELISA based study of vectorial capacity of Anopheles spp. for malarial parasites In District Charsadda Dr. Shumaila Noureen, PhD, University of Leicester, UK                                                                                                       

On June 30, 2013 the participants visited the National Wildlife Park Ayubia/Donga Gali and Safdar Ali Shah conservator Wildlife KP helped them in exploring potential zoonotic reservoirs in a field through interaction with wildlife experts and Zoonotic diseases researchers in their department.