Meeting Chinese water-buffalos, a sampling mission for Prof. Stefan Magez to Anhui, China

Within the scope of the FWO-sponsored bilateral project between VUB and the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences (ZAMSc), in September 2014, a joined workshop session was organized at the VUB that was attended by Prof. Lu, Dr. Chen, Dr. Kong, Mrs. Tong, Mr. Ting and Mr. Lou from the ZAMSc,Prof. Magez, Dr. Odongo, Drs. Goossens, and Drs. Pinto of the VUB and Dr. Radwanska of Science Europe. Subsequently, Prof. Magez visited the ZAMSc and together with Prof. Lu, the project coordinator at Hangzhou, a sampling mission was organized that took place in Anhui Province. There, a large number of water-buffalos was tested, under the supervision of Prof. Wang, Director of the Anhui Institute of Parasitic Disease Control, Hefei. Samples were collected on the south bank of the Yangtze River (Dongzhi County) at the Anqing ferry crossing. Samples were later analyzed and catalogued at the Schistisimiasis Research Centre at Dongliuzhen. In addition, through the CDC in Shanghai, 300 more cattle and buffalo serum samples were obtained. Finally in a seminar session, the project was outlined to local veterinary health officials, in the presence of Mrs. Lu, the Deputy Magistrat of Dongzhi County.

Started in 2013, this project focuses on the development of a cheap and easy-to-use diagnostic tool for animal trypanosomosis. This disease is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma evansi that circulates in the blood of the infected animal and can cause severe weight loss, loss of milk production and renders the animal susceptible to secondary infections. Trypanosomosis is classically thought to be mainly a disease of the African continent. However, the infection was introduced accidentally into China, probably at the start of the 20th century. Subsequently, the infection has spread through the country and is now affecting a large part of rural China. Diagnosis of the disease is difficult and in general requires highly specialized molecular biology tools in order to be accurate. The aim of the bilateral project is do design a very simple tool, in the format of a dipstick, which can be used by local farmers enabling them to monitor possible disease outbreaks. Dipsticks technology is widely used in the developed world (for example in the form of pregnancy test kits that can be readily bought in supermarkets) and have the advantage that they do not require specialized training to be used.

The joined project will run till the end of 2015, at which state we hope to have tested a prototype dipstick that will subsequently be produced on a large scale under supervision of the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences.