Collaboration builds research capacity in PNG

zoonotic diseases

Dr Andrew Peters with Debbie Kisa and Sinafa Robby from the PNG Institute of Medical Research

Scientists from Papua New Guinea (PNG) are tapping into expertise at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation to improve the health of smallholder farmers and their communities.

As part of a long-running collaboration, two scientists from the PNG Institute of Medical Research will spend the next month at the Graham Centre at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Wagga Wagga.

CSU lecturer in veterinary pathology Dr Andrew Peters said it’s part of a project to understand more about the impact and risks of zoonotic diseases, such as Q Fever and leptospirosis.

“In recent years there has been a significant shift in the diets of urban people in PNG, moving from bush meat and pork, to poultry and beef. This has led to a growth in small-scale meat production in villages,” Dr Peters said.

“The nature of the smallholder production systems in PNG means that people have much closer daily contact with the animals than what we would see in an Australian setting.”

“We want to find out more about the incidence and risks of zoonotic disease, which is disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. In particular, we want to understand more about the risks of Q Fever and leptospirosis.”

Senior scientific officer in charge of the zoonotic and neglected diseases section at the PNG Institute of Medical Research, Sinafa Robby, and his colleague Debbie Kisa are working with scientists at CSU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to learn diagnostic assays that will be of use to analyse samples back in PNG.

“Over the past seven years my work with Dr Peters and other researchers at Charles Sturt University has helped me to develop my skills in field sample collection and laboratory anaylsis,” Robby said. “I’ve been able to share that knowledge with my colleagues building the capacity of the whole team.”

Dr Peters said, “In a broader sense this collaboration aims to improve the diagnostic capacity for zoonotic disease by bringing together scientists in Australia and those working in the field in PNG.

“This relationship has a growing legacy that’s building scientific capability in PNG by training veterinary practitioners, developing scientific knowledge and fostering lasting connections with Australian scientists.”

Dr Peters and students from CSU’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences will visit PNG in early 2018 to carry out fieldwork as part of the project.

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