People, Animals, Water, and Sustenance (PAWS) project: Update from Iqaluit

Written by Anna Manore, MSc Candidate It’s a beautiful, sunny, summer day in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and a dozen rambunctious sled dogs are happily barking and jumping around. Three researchers from the University of Guelph are moving among the dogs, stooping and scooping to collect the stool of these rambunctious animals.

This isn’t just a community service – the three researchers are collecting dog stool in order to detect infectious diseases that could pose a danger to humans. Danielle Julien, Stephanie Masina, and Anna Manore are three graduate students whose work on the PAWS (People, Animals, Water, and Sustenance) project aims to shed some light on potential sources of enteric illness in Iqaluit. Cryptosporidium and Giardia are the two pathogens of interest, and the PAWS project is investigating dogs, surface water, and clams as potential sources for these two potentially harmful protozoans.

“PAWS is a great example of taking a systems approach to health and social issues,” says project manager Anna Bunce, from McGill University. “This is important because it gives us an holistic understanding of a number of issues and how they fit together to create the contemporary context of Iqaluit.”

EcoHealth and OneHealth approaches are being used to guide this project forward, which, in the words of Danielle Julien, offers “an incredible opportunity to work together with fellow researchers from various disciplines within our department [Department of Population Medicine] to accomplish an understanding of health in the North”

“This project couldn’t be done without our wonderful collaborators from the Nunavut Research Institute, Jamal Shirley and Jean Allen,” says Stephanie Masina. Jamal, Jean, and Stephanie have been sampling surface water since the beginning of June, at sites where local residents gather drinking water.

Anna Manore’s project, which will be looking at clams, is gearing up for sample collection to begin in the Fall. “It’s been so helpful being in Iqaluit, being able to meet people and ask questions, and to get feedback on what might or might not work in terms of sampling. Of course, helping out with the dog sampling is a big plus!”

The PAWS team hopes that their work, as a whole, will provide new understanding of the sources of enteric illness in Iqaluit, and inform potential future public health interventions.