A two-month follow-up evaluation testing interventions to limit the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria among Maasai of northern Tanzania

BMC Infect Dis. 2017 Dec 15;17(1):770. doi: 10.1186/s12879-017-2857-z.


Background: In sub-Saharan Africa, efforts to control antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are aggravated by unregulated drug sales and use, and high connectivity between human, livestock, and wildlife populations. Our previous research indicates that Maasai agropastoralists-who have high exposure to livestock and livestock products and self-administer veterinary antibiotics-harbor antibiotic resistant Escherichia coli (E. coli). Here, we report the results of a public health intervention project among Maasai aimed at reducing selection and transmission of E. coli bacteria.

Methods: Research was conducted in two Maasai communities in Northern Tanzania. Participants were provided with health knowledge and technological innovations to facilitate: 1) the prudent use of veterinary antibiotics (tape measures and dosage charts to calculate livestock weight for more accurate dosage), and, 2) the pasteurization of milk (thermometers), the latter of which was motivated by findings of high levels of resistant E. coli in Maasai milk. To determine knowledge retention and intervention adoption, we conducted a two-month follow-up evaluation in the largest of the two communities.

Results: Retention of antimicrobial knowledge was positively associated with retention of bacterial knowledge and, among men, retention of bacterial knowledge was associated with greater wealth. Bacterial and AMR knowledge were not, however, associated with self-reported use of the innovations. Among women, self-reported use of the thermometers was associated with having more children and greater retention of knowledge about the health benefits of the innovations. Whereas 70% of women used their innovations correctly, men performed only 18% of the weight-estimation steps correctly. Men's correct use was associated with schooling, such that high illiteracy rates remain an important obstacle to the dissemination and diffusion of weight-estimation materials.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that dietary preferences for unboiled milk, concerns over child health, and a desire to improve the health of livestock are important cultural values that need to be incorporated in future AMR-prevention interventions that target Maasai populations. More generally, these findings inform future community-health interventions to limit AMR.

Keywords: Agro-pastoralists; Community-participatory research; Health education and evaluation; Pasteurization; Sub-Saharan Africa.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Education*
  • Humans
  • Knowledge
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Milk / microbiology
  • Pasteurization
  • Tanzania
  • Thermometers


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents