#EpiC_Friday_Shares no.8

Has it been a month already? Time flies when you’re having fun working the whole summer with the exception of 1 week’s holiday spent getting really wet in the Netherlands ;-). We still managed to venture out for a few visits including one to see some hunnebeds, megalithic tombs quite common in this area of the northern Netherlands.

Hunnedbed D27, Drenthe ©epi-connect
Hunnedbed D27, Drenthe ©epi-connect

It’s a new school year for some, the end of summer may bring a new job and/or house for others (this was certainly the case for us as academics)…but thankfully, some things like #EpiC_Friday_Shares will stay the same in the new school year! So… what’s been happening in the animal health world over the past few weeks?

Animal health

  • Just like humans, not every animal is as susceptible to a disease as its neighbour. Many factors come together to define an individual’s susceptibility to a disease but genes play a crucial part in that process. Researchers at the fantastic Pirbright Institute found that some chickens are almost completely resistant to a strain of avian influenza and only shed the virus through their respiratory tract and for a limited period of time. On the other hand, other (susceptible) birds also shed virus in faeces and over a longer time. The work done on these two genetically distinct lines of chickens  not only emphasises the important role a host plays in the spread of avian flu but also potentially widens the scope of existing control measures. The full paper is available open-source in Scientific Reports.
  • I could not resist this article on  playtime for piglets published by Scotland’s Rural College.   The Pig Unit of Scotland’s Rural College hosted a workshop earlier this summer  to bring together scientists, researchers and students to creatively explore animal welfare questions. Researchers there are carrying out research studying the benefits of play in early life for the long term welfare of pigs. Play not only is a crucial part of pig’s social development, it may also reduce some negative behaviours like tail-biting (in a similar way I guess that bored people tend to bite their nails).  The aim of the workshop was to observe young pigs (4 weeks) exploring their surroundings and to go and build some toys out of natural material that the piglets would enjoy exploring by mouth and snout. If this workshop runs again next year, count me in!


  • It seems almost crazy in this day and age that every life form around us hasn’t been named and characterised. A tick-borne bacterium responsible for a disease locally known in the western US as “foothill abortion disease” has finally been given a name by researchers at UC Davis and its genome has been characterised. The bacterium is responsible for a large number (45000-90000) of abortions in cattle every year in California/Nevada/Oregon and is transmitted by the soft-bodied Pajaroello tick.


  • SciDevNet has put together a lovely photo gallery exploring the livestock disease threats faced by the Maasai communities and the work of the Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS) with local pastoralists to protect lives, livelihoods and cultural identity.

Other items

  • Last but not least, the last article I wish to share with you this week offers an interesting reflection on the question: “Should bad data mean no action?“. Even with the best of intentions, much of the data used by governments, companies and civil society organisations to make decisions are flawed. Should they all sit tight until better data come along or can poor data still be useful? A must read!

Thanks for dropping by again after your summer break! If you liked this week’s #EpiC_Friday_Shares, tell us and tell your friends by sharing on social media using the buttons below!

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