Top 10 Food-Borne Parasites of Greatest Global Concern : Africa

Top 10 Food-Borne Parasites of Greatest Global Concern

A new report released today by two United Nations agencies identifies a “top 10” of food-borne parasites with the greatest global impact, including those found in pork, fish, fresh produce, fruit juice and milk, among other foods.

According to the report, produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the top ten are:

  • Taenia solium (pork tapeworm): In pork
  • Echinococcus granulosus (hydatid worm or dog tapeworm): In fresh produce
  • Echinococcus multilocularis (a type of tapeworm): In fresh produce
  • Toxoplasma gondii (protozoa): In meat from small ruminants, pork, beef, game meat (red meat and organs)
  • Cryptosporidium spp. (protozoa): In fresh produce, fruit juice, milk
  • Entamoeba histolytica (protozoa): In fresh produce
  • Trichinella spiralis (pork worm): In pork
  • Opisthorchiidae (family of flatworms): In freshwater fish
  • Ascaris spp. (small intestinal roundworms): In fresh produce
  • Trypanosoma cruzi (protozoa): In fruit juices

“Obviously this top ten is a more general, global perspective and does not necessarily reflect parasite rankings at a national level where each country may have more precise information,” Renata Clarke, head of food safety and quality at FAO, said in a news release.

“But considering the problems they cause, these parasites do not get the attention they deserve. We hope that by releasing a top ten ranking we can increase awareness among policy makers, the media and the general public about this major public health issue,” she added.

The parasites affect the health of millions of people every year, infecting muscle tissues and organs, causing epilepsy, anaphylactic shock, amoebic dysentery and other problems, the agencies noted. Some can live on in people’s bodies for decades.

Despite their huge social costs and global impacts, information is generally lacking regarding just where these parasites come from, how they live in the human body, and – most importantly – how they make people sick.

The list and report were developed following a request by the global food standards body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), for FAO and WHO to review the current status of knowledge on parasites in food and their public health and trade impacts.

The Codex Committee on Food Hygiene is now developing new guidelines for the control of these parasites. FAO and WHO are supporting the process by providing scientific and technical information.

The aim is to develop new standards for the global food trade that will help countries control the presence of these parasites in the food chain.

The report lists a number of ways to reduce the risk of parasite infections. For farmers, it advises the use of organic fertilizer, particularly on produce, should be closely monitored to ensure it is composted properly and all faecal matter is removed. Water quality must also be closely monitored.

For consumers, it advises that all meat should be well cooked and only clean water should be used to wash and prepare vegetables.

The agencies noted that in Europe, more than 2,500 people are affected by food-borne parasitic infections each year. In 2011, there were 268 cases of trichinellosis and 781 cases of echinococcosis recorded in the European Union.

In Asia, there is no precise national data but parasitic diseases are known to be widely spread and are recognized as major public health problems in many countries.

Meanwhile, there is no data at all in most African nations on the prevalence of food-borne parasites in humans because of a general lack of surveillance systems.

In the United States, Neurocysticercosis, caused by Taenia solium, is the single most common infectious cause of seizures in some areas of the US where 2,000 people are diagnosed with neurocysticercosis every year. Toxoplasmosis is a leading cause of food-borne illness and death.

Source: All Africa


Rwanda: Chinese Medical Team Arrives


A twelve -member Chinese medical team has arrived in the country as part of the medical assistance that the Peoples’ Republic has been giving to Rwanda since 1982.

The new team will be deployed at Kibungo Hospital in the Eastern Province.

During the welcome dinner hosted by the Chinese Embassy, Minister of Health Dr Richard Sezibera commended the existing bilateral relations between Rwanda and China that has ensured cooperation in health and other sectors.

“Rwanda commends the outgoing team for the high-level professional techniques and dedication in providing medical services to Rwandans,” Sezibera told the medics.

The new delegation is made up of medical specialists in different fields and they came equipped with medical supplies and other facilities that they will use while on assignment here.

The same dinner also honoured the departing Chinese medical team that has finished its two year term in the country.

Sezibera noted that the Chinese medics’ expertise would contribute to the improvement of health sector in the country.

“This cooperation has ensured cross cultural learning and knowledge-sharing that goes on to improve services offered to patients,” Sezibera said.

The head of the outgoing team, Fang Xuejun praised the government of Rwanda for the support it has rendered to his team during their stay in the country.

According to Xuejun, the team diagnosed and treated 30,000 patients and performed over 3,000 operations.

The Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Kigali, Li Yigang, hailed the outgoing team for its success and urged the new team to build on present achievements of the China-Rwanda health cooperation.

Yiyang stressed the need for continued efforts to improve health and assured his country’s dedication in assisting Rwanda achieve its goals.

Source: All Africa

African Children’s Well-Being Improved, but Still Inadequate

Africa has become a better place for children in recent years, but more investments are needed in health and education to further improve the lives of African children, according to a new study of the African Child Policy Forum.

The African Report on Child Well-being 2013, says conditions for children on the African continent improved in the last five years, mostly because of recent achievements in increasing the survival rate of children, reducing infant mortality and improved access to water and sanitation.

Mauritius, South Africa and Tunisia top the list of the 52 investigated African countries in the report launched by the African Child Policy Forum. They put in place national laws that protect children from violence and maltreatment. That resulted in better outcomes for children in those countries.

But executive director of the African Child Policy Forum Theophane Nikyeme says that despite the improvements, the continent is still facing serious challenges when it comes to providing basic needs for children.

“What they need is an environment in which they can grow in freedom. Where their basic needs will be satisfied,” said Nikyeme. “Where they can go to school and get proper education. They could go to a health service not from their home, not having to go through kilometers to reach their clinic. Being able to go to school all the way to university if they want to do so.”

Many children in Africa still die from preventable diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition. While African governments committed to spend 15 percent of their budget on health, on average only 11 percent is spent.

The worst places for children to grow up are unstable and fragile countries such as the Central African Republic, Chad and Eritrea.

The report focuses on 44 indicators such as a government’s provision for children’s basic needs and the participation of children in decisions that affect them.

Countries with low GDP such as Rwanda and Malawi scored higher than countries with a relatively higher GDP such as Namibia and Equatorial Guinea.

Nikyeme says the report shows that a child’s well-being does not necessarily depend on a country’s wealth, but on the government’s commitment:

“What we are advocating for, is for governments, when they ratify a law or a treaty at the international level or regional level, they should go back to harmonize it to the national laws. But this is not happening,” said Nikyeme.

The first report on child well-being in Africa was done in 2008. While the overall well-being of children seems to have improved, the report calls upon African governments to increase investments in education, health and social protection. The African Child Forum Policy also urges African countries to enhance accountability and good governance so that the recent economic growth on the continent should translate into concrete results.

Somalia, South Sudan and Western Sahara were not included in the report because of a lack of reliable data.

Source: All Africa