Understanding how and why people interact with animals is important for the prevention and control of zoonoses. To date, studies have primarily focused on the most visible forms of human-animal contact (e.g., hunting and consumption), thereby blinding One Health researchers and practitioners to the broader range of human-animal interactions that can serve as cryptic sources of zoonotic diseases. Zootherapy, the use of animal products for traditional medicine and cultural practices, is widespread and can generate opportunities for human exposure to zoonoses. Existing research examining zootherapies omits details necessary to adequately assess potential zoonotic risks.
We used a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative and qualitative data from questionnaires, key informant interviews, and field notes to examine the use of zootherapy in nine villages engaged in wildlife hunting, consumption, and trade in Cross River State, Nigeria. We analyzed medicinal and cultural practices involving animals from a zoonotic disease perspective, by including details of animal use that may generate pathways for zoonotic transmission. We also examined the sociodemographic, cultural, and environmental contexts of zootherapeutic practices that can further shape the nature and frequency of human-animal interactions.
Within our study population, people reported using 44 different animal species for zootherapeutic practices, including taxonomic groupsmore »
Epidemiological investigations of zoonoses and public health interventions that aim to reduce zoonotic exposures should explicitly consider zootherapy as a potential pathway for disease transmission and consider the sociocultural and environmental contexts of their use in health messaging and interventions.