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Zootherapy as a potential pathway for zoonotic spillover: a mixed-methods study of the use of animal products in medicinal and cultural practices in Nigeria

By S. Friant, J. Bonwitt, W. A. Ayambem, N. M. Ifebueme, A. O. Alobi, O. M. Otukpa, A. J. Bennett, C. Shea, J. M. Rothman, T. L. Goldberg, J. K. Jacka

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BACKGROUND: Understanding how and why people interact with animals is important for the prevention and control of zoonoses. To date, studies have primarily focused on the most visible forms of human-animal contact (e.g., hunting and consumption), thereby blinding One Health researchers and practitioners to the broader range of human-animal interactions that can serve as cryptic sources of zoonotic diseases. Zootherapy, the use of animal products for traditional medicine and cultural practices, is widespread and can generate opportunities for human exposure to zoonoses. Existing research examining zootherapies omits details necessary to adequately assess potential zoonotic risks. METHODS: We used a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative and qualitative data from questionnaires, key informant interviews, and field notes to examine the use of zootherapy in nine villages engaged in wildlife hunting, consumption, and trade in Cross River State, Nigeria. We analyzed medicinal and cultural practices involving animals from a zoonotic disease perspective, by including details of animal use that may generate pathways for zoonotic transmission. We also examined the sociodemographic, cultural, and environmental contexts of zootherapeutic practices that can further shape the nature and frequency of human-animal interactions. RESULTS: Within our study population, people reported using 44 different animal species for zootherapeutic practices, including taxonomic groups considered to be "high risk" for zoonoses and threatened with extinction. Variation in use of animal parts, preparation norms, and administration practices generated a highly diverse set of zootherapeutic practices (n = 292) and potential zoonotic exposure risks. Use of zootherapy was patterned by demographic and environmental contexts, with zootherapy more commonly practiced by hunting households (OR = 2.47, p 

Publication Title One Health Outlook
Volume 4
Issue 1
Pages 5
ISBN/ISSN 2524-4655
DOI 10.1186/s42522-022-00060-3
Author Address Department of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA. Institutes of the Life Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA. and Rabies Branch, Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, 30329, USA.Department of Anthropology, Durham University, Durham, UK.Department of Forestry and Wildlife Resources Management, University of Calabar, Calabar, Nigeria.Department of Pathobiological Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison, WI, USA.Genomics and Bioinformatics Department, Biological Defense Research Directorate, Naval Medical Research Center-Frederick, Fort Detrick, Frederick, MD, USA.Department of Anthropology, Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, USA.Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, 80309, USA.
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Epidemiology
  2. Human-animal interactions
  3. Medical care
  4. Medication
  5. One Health
  6. open access
  7. risk
  8. wildlife
  9. Zoonoses
  1. open access