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Poking at Poop - Dogs and disease in cities

Many urban communities in Nepal live on the edge of forests that are home to wild carnivores like leopards and jackal. The Himalayan Mutt Project joined researchers from the Center for Molecular Disease Dynamics (CMDN) to snoop around poop in the suburbs of Bhaktapur. We learn about their efforts to investigate the strain of canine distemper virus (CDV) that is infecting domestic dogs in this urban landscape. Above: Adarsh Man Sherchan collects a faecal sample along a road on the edge of Suryabinyak forest in Bhaktapur.

Suryabinyak forest lies on the southern boundaries of Bhaktapur District. "CDV cases are being seen in larger numbers by the day," says Adarsh Man Sherchan. "Zoonotic disease spillover is a constant threat in our part of the world where response mechanisms are slow and improperly regulated. Early on screening is therefore quite pivotal." Above: Jessie Moravek collects a poop sample as Adarsh Man Sherchan, veterinarian Dr. Patricia Kelly, and local kids look on.

Many locals were curious about what the four strangers in masks and gloves were up to, poking around poop in their suburb. This is was a good opportunity for outreach, and Adarsh was quick to explain the work to them. This got the kids excited who then ran around the fields identifying fresh poop for our team! Locating dog poop in a suburb as large as Bhaktapur is like trying to locate a needle in a haystack! Thankfully, the enthusiasm of the local kids motivated them to scan the fields in search of fresh poop! While we had started out thinking we would grab every scant sample we could, we soon found ourselves picking the cream of the crop - selecting only the freshest poop from that morning! Above: A child peers out of a window was Adarsh collects a poop sample.

It was a great opportunity to have a go at what field work is like in the suburbs! It's a very different landscape and animals behave differently. These landscapes are also a great place to do some long term investigations into disease as the sites are easy and affordable to access. We look forward to seeing the results from this study! Above: Debby Ng (Himalayan Mutt Project), Dr. Patricia Kelly, and Jessie Moravek call it all in a days work! Photos by Debby Ng and Adarsh Man Sherchan (CMDN)

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