ARTICLE FOR DISCUSSION
Exposure to Animal Feces and Human Health: A Systematic Review and Proposed Research Priorities
Gauthami Penakalapati, Jenna Swarthout, Miranda J. Delahoy, Lydia McAliley, Breanna Wodnik, Karen Levy, and Matthew C. Freeman*
Humans can be exposed to pathogens from poorly managed animal feces, particularly in communities where animals live in close proximity to humans. This systematic review of peer-reviewed and gray literature examines the human health impacts of exposure to poorly managed animal feces transmitted via water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related pathways in low- and middle-income countries, where household livestock, small-scale animal operations, and free-roaming animals are common. We identify routes of contamination by animal feces, control measures to reduce human exposure, and propose research priorities for further inquiry. Exposure to animal feces has been associated with diarrhea, soil-transmitted helminth infection, trachoma, environmental enteric dysfunction, and growth faltering. Few studies have evaluated control measures, but interventions include reducing cohabitation with animals, provision of animal feces scoops, controlling animal movement, creating safe child spaces, improving veterinary care, and hygiene promotion. Future research should evaluate: behaviors related to points of contact with animal feces; animal fecal contamination of food; cultural behaviors of animal fecal management; acute and chronic health risks associated with exposure to animal feces; and factors influencing concentrations and shedding rates of pathogens originating from animal feces.