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Knowledge Transfer and Collaborative Networking on Building Resilience Against Leptospirosis

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

Knowledge transfer and collaborative networking on building resilience against leptospirosis among visitors in recreational forests Terengganu, Malaysia.

Almost a year ago we received the news that our allocation to the SEAOHUN Small Grant Program 2021 was accepted. We were jumping with joy! This is the beginning of Project Lepto- a project that we have initiated in collaboration with Faculty of Science and Marine Environment, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (FSME UMT) with Institute of Tropical Biodiversity and Sustainable Development, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (ITBSD UMT), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Institute for Medical Research (IMR).

Recreational forests in Malaysia are categorized as one of the important hotspots of leptospirosis outbreaks. Previous studies have indicated the risk of leptospirosis in recreational forests, and focused mainly on water-soil environmental reservoirs. However, information on the animal reservoirs remains under-highlighted.

We laid out the project into a few objectives. First, we need to find out the diversity and composition of non-volant small mammals at Cemerong Recreational Forest, Terengganu by using 100 cage traps that were set up along the trail at the recreational area. Second, we are determined to know the prevalence of leptospirosis in the samples of the non-volant small mammals. The samples were determined by dissecting the individuals and obtaining the liver samples for testing purposes. Thirdly, we would like to imitate knowledge transfer activities for the public regarding the precautions and symptoms of leptospirosis.

The first objective was determined by using identification of the small mammals diversity.The number of individuals caught from the sampling sessions was 51 individuals from 12 species. The most dominant species was house rat (Rattus rattus) with 14 individuals, followed by common treeshrew (Tupaia glis) and Whitehead’s maxomys (Maxomys whiteheadi) with 9 individuals respectively.

Then from the liver sample, we tested the prevalence of leptospirosis in the individual. Our students managed to get training on the lab work at the IMR with Dr. Mohammad Ridhuan Mohd Ali (Research Officer). This collaboration allowed knowledge transfer among the two research institutes. We feel humbled by the training given by the expert such as Dr. Ridhuan, as well as the opportunities to use the lab and resource sharing for the laboratory work. We managed to get one sample containing Leptospira sp. With that finding, we can move forward for our next step with the Forestry Department to support the forest management work.

How do we transfer our information to the public? We have two outputs that we managed to implement. First, we managed to install the signboard at Cemerong Recreational Forest, Terengganu, Malaysia.

This signboard would allow the public to know more about symptoms of leptospirosis, what factors lead to the zoonotic disease and what can we do to prevent them from occurring. We also managed to include a QR code at the signboard leading to our website, of which we have included our team members, objectives of the project and brief database and photo of the small mammals and our team members on the field. This website is a great tool to uplift our visibility and expand our project in the future, especially with the extensive collaboration that we already have.

We managed to implement a survey on the effectiveness of the communication regarding leptospirosis. We obtained 89 respondents, and significantly, social media is a great tool among the public to know more about this zoonotic disease, compared to other communication channels such as newspaper, radio, television and others. The infographic that we printed on the signboards also obtained great understanding as respondents have more awareness and understanding about this issue. This outcome is obtained from a pre-post test that we included in the survey.

There are multiple pillars of the project such as field work, laboratory work and awareness through signboards and websites. We couldn't thank USAID and SEAOHUN for the seed funding provided to us to initiate this project, allowing knowledge transfer and training, and more visibility about the zoonotic disease. We hope that in future more collaboration and funding could be obtained, towards a better health and conservation effort of our world.

SEAOHUN 2022 Small Grants

Project team leader: Dr. Nur Juliani Shafie

Team members: Dr. Nor Zalipah Mohamed, Dr. Aini Hasanah Abd Mutalib, Dr. Mohammad Ridhuan Mohd Ali, Dr. Farah Shafawati Mohd Taib, Dr. Norita binti Shamsudin, Tuan Haji Roslan bin Rani

- Personal protective equipment, distancing, and group size standards in this photo were consistent with local public health guidance and COVID-19 status in the specific country and time it was taken. This may not reflect best practices for all locations where COVID-19 is still spreading. -


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