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Professor urges irresponsible pet owners to clean up their act

Posted on 21/09/2010

Professor John Lewis highlights the dangers of parasites and pathogens transmitted from animals to humans

A Professor from Royal Holloway, University of London has been using his expertise to get behind a national campaign urging pet owners to be more responsible in disposing dog mess and undertaking regular de-worming routines to prevent the spread of parasitic diseases.

Professor John Lewis from the Department of Biological Sciences appeared on BBC Breakfast News to highlight the impact of parasitic diseases, especially human toxocariasis which was recently responsible for causing partial blindness in two -year old Aimee Langdon who appeared with her mother on the programme alongside Professor Lewis.

The roundworm Toxocara canis lives in the digestive system of dogs and foxes. Parasite eggs can be released in the faeces of infected animals and contaminate soil. If someone accidently ingests or comes into contact with small particles of contaminated soil, they may develop toxocariasis.

Amiee was playing in the park when she fell and put her hand in dog mess and she may also have ingested contaminated soil or sand particles. Before her mother could get to her, the toddler had put her hand to her eye. Hospital tests confirmed toxocariasis and also a bacterial infection, which affects the soft tissues of the eye resulting in orbital cellulitis. Despite being treated with three different antibiotics Amiee has lost 75 per cent of the sight in her left eye.

Professor Lewis, who is an Emeritus Professor of Zoology and Editor-in-Chief of the 'Journal of Helminthology', Cambridge University Press, said: “This campaign is extremely important because there is a continuing need to raise public awareness of the dangers of parasites and pathogens transmitted from animals to humans, especially children. Over 60% of human infections and diseases worldwide are linked with domestic and wild animals and such infections/diseases are referred to as zoonotic. For domestic pets, all owners need to be responsible for reducing and if possible eliminating sources of infection of the roundworm Toxocara and other parasites by regular veterinary treatment and in the case of dogs preventing fouling in parks, play areas with sand pits and open gardens used by children.”

For more information on the campaign visit: http://www.keepbritaintidy.org/News/Default.aspx?newsID=959


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