Friday, December 7, 2012

Preventing Epilepsy in Burkina Faso

Epilepsy has been shown to be nearly 10 times more frequent and remains a highly stigmatized disease in developing countries. In areas where pigs are raised traditionally (i.e., free roaming) and where sanitation is poor, it has been shown that about 29% of people with epilepsy have lesions of neurocysticercosis (NCC) in their brain. NCC is a zoonotic parasitic infection of the brain caused by the tapeworm Taenia solium, which infects both humans and pigs. Humans carry the adult form of the worm which they acquire from eating undercooked contaminated pork meat. Pigs get infected by directly eating feces or food contaminated with human feces. Humans may get NCC when ingesting food (or possibly water) contaminated with human feces. Hélène Carabin, DVM, PhD, a researcher with the OU Health Sciences Center, is pioneering a unique community-based randomized controlled study (60 villages in 30 departments and 3 provinces of Burkina Faso) to assess if an educational package could cut the life cycle of the worm to prevent epilepsy.

Villagers in Burkina Faso raise pigs as part of their household livelihood.
Dr. Carabin's research team in Burkina Faso initially focused on pig management - limiting the movement of pigs to stop them from having access to human feces as a way of curtailing the cycle of transmission. Using focus groups and in-depth interviews, the team realized that improved pig management was not a feasible option, given the community's behaviors, preferences and the difficulty in finding food for the pigs. The participants, however, were knowledgeable about the risks of open defecation and were willing to improve sanitation. The research team then considered community-led total sanitation (CLTS), an innovative methodology for mobilizing communities to completely eliminate open defecation (OD). Communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation and take their own action to become ODF (open defecation free). But CLTS is costly and requires extensive support.

And so the team has agreed upon a more successful and sustainable approach, and one that is ingeniously American - make a movie! The group hired a local filmmaker to film an educational comedy that advocates and teaches about the life cycle of the disease and how to prevent it through improved sanitation and pig management. To accompany the movie, they worked with Water and Sanitation for Africa (WSA) to adapt previously used PHAST (participatory hygiene and sanitation training) tools to emphasize the role of pigs in the disease. They also developed a comic book to accompany the movie. The field team has started the first follow-up visits in September and is offering the intervention to half of the villages. The team is now analyzing the baseline portion of the study.

Dr. Helene Carabin (left) with Dr. Linda Cowan on location in Pabre.
Dr. Carabin is a frequent collaborator with the OU WaTER Center. Her research includes study of infectious diseases, especially zoonotic infections that are transmitted between species of animals, including humans. Many of these diseases are transmitted due to poor sanitation and some are water-borne, water-based; they are significantly more problematic in regions of the world which lack sanitation and clean drinking water. Dr. Carabin wishes to acknowledge her colleagues in Burkina Faso (Rasmané Ganaba DVM PhD, Athanase Millogo MD, Jean-Bosco Ouédraogo PhD, and Zékiba Tarnagda DVM PhD) and in Belgium (Pierre Dorny DVM PhD and Nicolas Praet DVM PhD).
This study is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders (NINDS) and the Fogarty International Center (FIC) under the BRAIN program.

Spotlight on a Student - Junyi Du

Anyone who is around Junyi Du ("Du") for very long knows that it is not very hard to get Du to laugh. He will laugh at almost anything, from the silly things that people do to difficult research problems that seem so out of reach. Why not laugh about it? He will eventually solve them anyway! Du's research, under Dr. Elizabeth Butler, is to investigate the efficacy of aluminum-based fluoride adsorption materials, especially as amended with coatings of metal oxides and oxyhydroxides. The ultimate goal is to amend natural media to use in fluoride removal and the production of safe drinking water.

Du spends a lot of time in his laboratory, testing the adsorptive properties of various media for arsenic removal.

Du's identity as an environmental engineer is one that has been evolving. He says: "Although I chose the major of environmental engineering when I entered college, I knew almost nothing about the major. With the studies in college, I found it was an interesting and promising major and decided to stay rather than changing my major. In China, the career prospect for environmental engineering students seemed pretty bright because of the rapid development of economy and the exponentially deteriorating environment, although it turned out not so good afterwards. On the other hand, I could learn the knowledge covering a series of majors in environmental engineering, such as principles of electricity, ecology, microbiology, chemical engineering, and even economics. It is very good for me to engage in and take advantage of the multidisciplinary study. Since then, my sophomore year of undergraduate, I began to gear up on the track of being an environmental engineer. Later, I continued my master’s study in the same major, and deepened the understanding of environmental work."

Part of what kept him going in the field is the realization that he could make a difference in the world: "I realized I could do more than only designing, mapping and researching as an environmental engineer. I could and have to expose myself to a bigger stage since it is really a challenging work to solve the environmental issues in real world."
Du practices block construction as part of the Field Methods course, May 2012

Du earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in Environmental Engineering from Nanchang University in China. While there, he conducted research on fluoride distribution and migration in carbonate bedrock and fluoride adsorption mechanisms of clay minerals. For enjoyment, Du likes reading history books and poems, cooking, and singing. To improve fitness, he also plays basketball and does some running and hiking.

And Du will always be learning. In his words, "I will keep going and stay thirsty of learning." We hope that that thirst will never fully be quenched.

Marc Parlange Gives NWC Seminar

Marc Parlange, Ph.D., presented a seminar - "Flows over Complex Terrain" - at the National Weather Center (NWC) on September 19. Dr. Parlange, Professor and Dean at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, was here at OU in conjunction with the 2012 WaTER Symposium. He and five other international experts in the fields of water and sanitation, nominated and selected the next International Water Prize winner and then gave talks and answered questions as part of the Symposium.

Dr. Marc Parlange

The NWC seminar presented field micrometeorological observations that were collected in the Swiss alps over steep terrain to understand the patterns of the wind fields which have an important impact on the melting of snow and glaciers in the generation of stream flows.  The talk then focused on ongoing work with colleagues Charles Meneveau and Marc Calaf on the impact of large scale wind turbine farms on these surface fluxes using new generation Large Eddy Simulation.  There is an apparent impact of increasing the fluxes of scalars into the atmosphere of some 10 to 15 percent.

Marc and his students measure and simulate wind fields over the Swiss Alps.

Previously, Parlange served as professor at Johns Hopkins University and UC Davis. He is Editor-in-Chief of Water Resources Research and member of the Division 2 (Engineering and Physical Sciences) of the Swiss National Science Foundation. His research concerns the measurement of and simulation in hydrology, water resources, and the lower atmosphere. In 1997 he was awarded the Macelwane Medal and was made Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and in 2006 he was awarded the Dalton Medal of the European Geosciences Union. He obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. at Cornell University.

Springtime in Oklahoma

Image courtesy of Simon Howden,
The biennial OU International WaTER Conference has been a Fall conference for its first three editions. However, because there are already many worthy water and sanitation conferences in the Fall, we are considering shifting our conference to the Spring semester beginning in 2015.

As a friend of the WaTER Center, you will be sent a separate email soon to ask if this change would be better suited to your schedule or not. Please respond, and help us make the best decision for the most people.


from the OU WaTER Center Directors
 and Staff

Redbud trees, the state tree of Oklahoma, are resplendent in the spring