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Ignacio Moriyón: "Boiling milk saves lives in the third world".

The researcher of the high school of Tropical Health states that simple disease prevention measures are not applied in countries at development due to cultural prejudices.

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Ignacio Moriyón
PHOTO: Manuel Castells
09/06/14 12:44 Miriam Salcedo

World Milk Day was celebrated on June 1. Dairy products are one of the most consumed animal products in the world. In Spain, a total of 120 liters of milk, about 10 kilos of cheese and another of butter are consumed per year, average . This occurs in a country where the production of dairy products is regulated, requiring a minimum sanitary requirements for human consumption of food of animal origin(Regulation 852/2004 of the European Parliament).

But what happens in countries where these measures do not exist or are hardly applied? Nigeria, one of the countries in which the high school of Tropical Health of the University of Navarra (ISTUN) maintains collaborations, is a case in point. In a 2012 report the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) highlighted the importance of dairy production in Sahel countries, where 80% of the population earns a living from livestock.

source Nigeria is the most populated country in sub-Saharan Africa and domestic animals are a major source of food resources, as well as traction and transportation of raw materials. The scarcity of sanitary control measures for the consumption of food of animal origin in these countries causes diseases that have been eradicated or well controlled in developed countries to become endemic. One of these neglected diseases is brucellosis, one of the most widespread zoonoses in the world, as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

On the occasion of World Milk Day 2014, the research team on brucellosis of ISTUN reminds that, although the best way to control the disease is to reduce or eliminate the infection of sick animals, there are immediate and simple measures that can reduce its impact. According to Ignacio Moriyón, director of laboratory Brucellosis, "for brucellosis it is not appropriate to develop a human vaccine, so, in addition to research in new animal vaccines that are more stable, safe and economical, it is important to combine preventive actions to avoid infection in animals and its transmission to humans".

Among these actions, the WHO indicates pasteurizing milk as a protection mechanism against the spread of the disease. However, in countries such as Nigeria, where a large part of the livestock population lives in relatively primitive conditions, Moriyón reminds us that"given the lack of resources, simpler measures such as boiling milk should also be used". The problem, as the expert points out, is cultural prejudice: "In the areas of central Nigeria where we work, many people believe that milk loses its qualities when it is boiled. Such simple measures still need cultural adaptation, for which the inclusion of communication experts in the teams at work is very important."

In relation to brucellosis, this group of researchers from ISTUN and School of Medicine, participates in ICONZ - Africa, an international project financed with European funds, which seeks to improve animal health and production in several countries of the African continent. One of its main objectives is to develop partnership networks to significantly alleviate poverty, improve health and meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals development .