Wildlife trade and human health in Lao PDR: An assessment of the zoonotic disease risk in markets

Zoe F. Greatorex, Sarah H. Olson, Sinpakone Singhalath, Soubanh Silithammavong, Kongsy Khammavong, Amanda E. Fine, Wendy Weisman, Bounlom Douangngeun, Watthana Theppangna, Lucy Keatts, Martin Gilbert, William B. Karesh, Troy Hansel, Susan Zimicki, Kathleen O'Rourke, Damien O. Joly, Jonna A Mazet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Although the majority of emerging infectious diseases can be linked to wildlife sources, most pathogen spillover events to people could likely be avoided if transmission was better understood and practices adjusted to mitigate risk. Wildlife trade can facilitate zoonotic disease transmission and represents a threat to human health and economies in Asia, highlighted by the 2003 SARS coronavirus outbreak, where a Chinese wildlife market facilitated pathogen transmission. Additionally, wildlife trade poses a serious threat to biodiversity. Therefore, the combined impacts of Asian wildlife trade, sometimes termed bush meat trade, on public health and biodiversity need assessing. From 2010 to 2013, observational data were collected in Lao PDR from markets selling wildlife, including information on volume, form, species and price of wildlife; market biosafety and visitor origin. The potential for traded wildlife to host zoonotic diseases that pose a serious threat to human health was then evaluated at seven markets identified as having high volumes of trade. At the seven markets, during 21 observational surveys, 1,937 alive or fresh dead mammals (approximately 1,009 kg) were observed for sale, including mammals from 12 taxonomic families previously documented to be capable of hosting 36 zoonotic pathogens. In these seven markets, the combination of high wildlife volumes, high risk taxa for zoonoses and poor biosafety increases the potential for pathogen presence and transmission. To examine the potential conservation impact of trade in markets, we assessed the status of 33,752.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0150666
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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