In a guest blog, Professor Stephen Baker explains the importance of monitoring the emergence of infectious diseases in Asia. Zoonotic diseases that pass from animal to human are an international public health problem regardless of location, but in lower-income countries the opportunities for such pathogens to enter the food chain are amplified.
Where I currently work in Vietnam, and across the region, humans have a very different way of interacting with animals being bred for food than would be familiar to those in the UK. If one were to travel to the Mekong Delta region (in the south of Vietnam) it would not be uncommon to see people who keep a large variety of farm animals in, or in close proximity to, their houses. It comes as little surprise that in a country where raw pig blood and pig uterus are commonly consumed, the number one cause of bacterial meningitis is Streptococcus suis, a colonising bacterium of pigs.
The major problem of researching emerging infections is predicting how they arise and how we respond to them once they do.