Dr Irfan Zahid

Amongst the large ruminant’s family available in Pakistan, camel is an important animal of the arid/ rain fed areas having unique characteristics as its milk and meat is much healthier than other animals. Even Almighty Allah in the Holy Quran has indicated the importance and qualities of the camel by praising this animal as “Do they not look at camel, how they are made”.

A large group of people and communities living in arid diverse Eco zones in the entire world, particularly in harsh climates earns their livelihoods by depending on livestock especially the camels. Their dependence may spread to the utilization of camel milk, meat, wool and leather besides its use in transportation, riding and different sports. In Pakistan the camel population is also raised by the people for milk, meat, riding, transportation and sports purposes in the deserts, semi desert and other low rain fed arid warm areas of the entire country. A camel is a hardy animal as it can tolerate easily the rugged climates as well as extremes of temperatures and can effectively utilize the marginal areas with excellent capabilities to survive and produce under harsh conditions as it can survive without water and food for many days.

 The natural harsh and adverse climatic conditions, particularly during long dry seasons lead to the paucity of feeding regimes, resultantly the camels raised in such areas are subjected to stress conditions which lower their resistance and make them easily vulnerable to many diseases. Besides other infectious diseases of bacterial and viral origin, camels are exposed to a wide range of internal and external parasitic infestations. These parasites survive at the expense of the host animals causing lot of health problems like irritation, anemia, weakness, leading to production loss. Some of the parasites also have zoonotic importance as they can transfer many diseases to human beings. Amongst other so many external parasites to which camels are exposed, the Sarcoptic mange is recognized to be one of the most serious and damaging disease. This disease is caused by a mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei var cameli. It is an extremely pruritic, contagious and debilitating skin disease which is very frequently and sudden in onset. It is also ranked among the most serious and economically important diseases of camels. Sarcoptic mange infestation is very common in the areas of thin skin: the head, neck, flanks, medial aspect of thighs or inguinal region, mammary glands and prepuce. The head is usually affected rapidly as the animal uses its teeth for scratching the affected areas. Besides linking the disease with poor camel management, malnutrition and contact with infected objects, the stray & infected animals also often become a focus of infecting the healthy animals when mingling with them particularly at the watering places.

Sarcoptes is a burrowing mite as it penetrates deeply through the skin surface of the infected animals, leading to intense pruritus, exudative dermatitis, crust/ scab formation and loss of hair. In pruritus mites penetrate deep into muscular areas, damaging the flesh and lowering the quality of meat. The fertilized female mites create winding burrows or tunnels in the upper layers of the epidermis of the skin of the host animal and feeding on serous exudate which oozes from the damaged tissues. The female mites lay about 40-50 fertilized eggs in these tunnels which hatch in 3-5 days and the entire life cycle of sarcoptic mange from egg to egg is completed in 17-21 days.

Keeping in view the importance of the problem, the present study was designed to ascertain the prevalence of mange in the camel population of Punjab (Pakistan) and its effect on animal health, its threat to human population and to evaluate the therapeutic effect of different patent (Ivermectin & Cypermethrin) medicines available in the market and herbal [Azadirachta indica (Neem), Nicotiana tobaccum (Tobacco) & Eruca sativa (Taramera oil)]. These herbal plants are traditionally in use by people as anti-parasitic drugs to treat and control different internal and external parasites in animals and human beings for centuries. Results of one year study, which spread all over the Punjab, revealed that the overall / average prevalence of Sarcoptic mange for the whole year was observed as 10.47%, being higher in winter (November- February) 20.43% followed by spring (March-April) 13.55%. The least prevalence (1.47%) was observed in the summer season (July-August). This shows that colder climatic conditions of Pakistan can be attributed as one of the predisposing factors in the spread of mange disease in camels. The mange disease was also found on the high side in males (13.05%) as compared to females (10.19%) and in small animals or sucklers less than two years of age as compared to young and adult camels. The rate of disease prevalence was also higher in Pothohar region of Punjab as compared to Thal and Cholistan. The disease affected the physiological and bio-chemical systems of mangy camels as lower values of hemoglobin, total erythrocyte count, packed cell volume, total proteins, serum albumins and electrolytes i.e. Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium & Sodium were observed. However, total leukocyte count, lymphocytes, eosinophils, urea and the levels of AST, ALT and LDH were found on the higher side. Most of the owners of animals informed that those family members who remain in close contact of camels either during handling or riding do get eczema like skin problems especially during winter. The transfer of disease to others was also confirmed from an experiment when the rabbits, which were experimentally infested with scabies, also developed papules on shaved skin in a four week time. This shows that the camel mange could also be a health problem for those people who do not take effective hygienic measures while handling the diseased animals.

The treatment results revealed that all the medicines (patent and herbal) were effective in treating the diseased animals, however, both the patent medicines i.e. Ivermectin and Cypermethrin were found significantly better than the herbal medicines i.e. Neem, Tobacco & Taramera oil. Furthermore, it was also observed that the use of the higher dosage level of all three herbal medicines also showed better results as compared to the low dose of the same. This shows that the herbal medicines which are traditionally in use at the farmer’s level do have good effectiveness provided they are guided with properly about their strength and the method of preparation.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Campaign for farmer’s awareness through a continuous education program about the importance of the disease with special reference to production & economic loss due to disease, its treatment, control, management practices, human health hazards and way forward for the betterment should be launched at a government as well as non- government organizations (NGO’s) level so as to improve the life of poverty ridden livestock farmers raising the camels in harsh climatic conditions. Furthermore, the disease control program activities at the farmer’s level should be a regular feature of concerned organizations, to save the poor livestock farmers from the socioeconomic losses due to such diseases which are of great importance but neglected one.