If the additional cases of pneumonia among people living near goat farms are caused by pathogens originating from goats, then it should be possible to detect these pathogens on goat farms. To that end, RIVM, Utrecht University and Wageningen Research will be conducting research at some 16 goat farms to determine which pathogens are present.
The sub-study on goat farms aims to answer the following questions:
- Which pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi) can we find on goat farms that are known to potentially cause pneumonia in humans?
- Where on the farm do they occur?
- At what times do they occur on the farm?
- What farm characteristics and/or situations are associated with the presence and/or release of these pathogens?
To answer these questions, we will be taking samples of manure, litter, feed, dust, tank milk and air, among other substances. The researchers will also take nose swabs, blood samples and manure samples from the goats. Samples will be taken during ‘normal’ operating conditions, but also at times when specific activities are happening on the farm: during lambing, while mucking out the stalls, or when turning the manure compost pile. In the laboratory, we will check the samples for possible pathogens.
If pathogens are found, we will then check for correlations with certain farm characteristics, such as farm size, farm management and type of feed.
Sampling started at the end of 2019 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2021, if the COVID-19 situation permits. The samples taken during the rest of the study will focus on times when specific activities are happening on the farm.
The results will be published in a public report, at the same time as the other studies in the programme. Before that, all the research findings from this sub-study must be collected and then analysed in combination with the results of the other sub-studies. The data in this report will be anonymised and cannot be traced to any individual farms. Participating farms will receive results on the research done on their own farm.
Importance of this sub-study?
It is important for the entire goat-farming sector to determine why people living near goat farms are more likely to contract pneumonia. By conducting research on goat farms, we can learn more about the farm characteristics or events that may be related to this. If we find out more about that, it may be possible to impose targeted preventive measures, rather than the current general measures. We are very happy with the 16 farms participating in this study. Study participation does require a time investment from the goat farmer. We are aware of this factor, and therefore keep the visit as short as possible. Biosecurity is obviously an important consideration for the researchers. Moreover any and all data about participating farms and provided by the farms will be handled completely confidentially, and will be anonymised.