A study, aimed at determining the level of leptospiral antibodies in persons in “at-risk” occupations, will get under way next week. Targetting over 500 individuals, it will be conducted by the Leptospira Laboratory of the Ministry of Health, located at Enmore, from January to July 2009.

Among those considered “at-risk” are farm workers (vegetable, dairy, poultry) veterinarians, fishermen, grooms, animal handlers, workers in laboratories and abattoirs, as well as the construction industry. Additionally, the study will place emphasis on the Barbados Defence Force, National Conservation Commission (NCC), the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA), and the Barbados Sewerage System.

Principal Investigator and Director of the Leptospira Laboratory, Marquita Gittens-St. Hilaire, while stating the rationale for the study, said that, over the years, there had been a relatively steady decline in the numbers of persons infected with leptospirosis, yet “there have been spikes in numbers of those infected and the reason for this is currently unknown…”

The project will seek to address this, while measuring the societal burden of the disease in the “at-risk” occupations.

The study, which gets under way on Monday, January 26, will see personnel from the laboratory conducting interviews and taking blood samples from workers at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) on Spring Garden from 9:00 a.m. This will be followed by visits to the SSA in Wildey on Wednesday, January 28, and the Animal Control Unit in Black Rock on Friday, January 30.

The team from the Leptospira Laboratory will also visit the Southern Meats Abattoir on Tuesday, February 3, at 8:30 a.m. and return to the SSA on Wednesday, February 4, from 9:00 a.m.

Persons who wish to be part of the study should call the department at 427-5586 or 436-6632, or e-mail the Principal Investigator at Individuals are also asked to note that the study requires control groups, persons who work in the same organisation as “at risk” individuals, but who would not be directly exposed.

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