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Allen School and Department of Anthropology Researchers Team Up to Help Prevent Antibiotic Resistance Among the Maasai of Tanzania


Maasai pastoralists of northern Tanzania have a higher prevalence of antibiotic resistant Escherichia coli (E. coli) than neighboring ethnic groups, which may be related to the Maasai’s frequent consumption of raw cow’s milk. These findings, from an NSF-funded project led by Dr. Douglas Call, have led WSU Department of Anthropology graduate student Jennifer Roulette and post-doctoral researcher Casey Roulette to conduct developmental research aimed at communicating results back to the stakeholder communities and developing culturally appropriate innovations to limit the prevalence of antibiotic resistant enterica among the Maasai and their livestock.

A major focus of the Roulette’s research involved demonstrations of milk pasteurization and distribution of thermometers to over 100 Maasai women to help prevent the spread of bacteria from livestock to humans via milk. They also provided dosing charts and measuring tapes to over 60 Maasai men to help them with estimating the weight of their livestock animals and calculating the correct dose of an antibiotic. Two months after the dissemination, they returned to Tanzania for a two-month follow-up investigation of the Maasai’s use of the tools and sharing networks, as well as cultural attitudes toward the introduced innovations. The two also collaborated with a local primary school to develop integrated health and math curriculum, and to teach Maasai children how to use the thermometers, charts, and measuring tapes. Other aspects of their work involved ethnographic research exploring additional socioeconomic and ecological factors affecting Maasai health: Jen collected ethnomedical data among Maasai of all ages, which she hopes to use to explore Maasai health across the lifespan and to develop future health projects; Casey explored the Maasai’s use of medicinal plants, many of which contain antibiotic compounds and might therefore influence antibiotic resistance transmission pathways. They are currently analyzing and writing up the results of this research.

Jennifer’s PhD advisor is Dr. Courtney Meehan. Casey finished his PhD in anthropology in 2015, under Dr. Ed Hagen. He is conducting his post-doctoral work in collaboration with Dr. Rob Quinlan, and was recently hired by San Diego State University. The couple has a two-year old daughter, and look forward to returning to Tanzania for future research and development projects.

JCasey Roulette holding a Maasai milk gourd.

Jennifer Roulette (left) and Emma Roulette (center) herd goats in a Maasai camp.


Research News



Grants Awarded:

Dr. Thumbi Mwangi has received a 3-year, $608,000, Wellcome Trust Fellowship in Public Health and Tropical Medicine for his project “Applying epidemiological techniques to improve visibility and control of neglected zoonotic diseases: the case of rabies elimination in Kenya.” The award will support operational research on rabies elimination in Kenya, including estimating the dual burden of rabies in humans and animals in Kenya, determining the demographic and ecological factors that underlie patterns of rabies transmission, and developing and assessing strategies for rabies control and elimination. Co-investigators include Drs. Sarah Cleaveland, Katie Hampson, M.K. Njenga and Guy Palmer.

Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreño

Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreño has been awarded a supplemental one-year, $191,000, award from the Deptartment of Homeland Security (via PNNL subcontract) for Phase 2 of his project “Generation of predictive models for viral pathogenesis.“ The project uses transcriptomics, proteomics, lipidomics, and metabolomics to generate predictive models of Nipah and Hendra virus pathogenesis.

Dr. Cheryl Miller, postdoctoral associate in the lab of Dr. Jean Celli, received a 2-year, $150,000 USDA-NIFA Fellowship for her project “Elucidation of mechanisms critical for Brucella trafficking and replication within host cells.” The project will expand understanding of Brucella pathogenic strategies and molecular principles of bacterial host cell interactions.

Dr. Anthony Nicola has been awarded a two year $151,000 NIH R03 grant titled, “Role of HSV gK in epithelial cell entry." This research investigates the role of a virus surface protein in infection of cells, toward development of new drugs and vaccines to prevent herpes infection and related complications including neonatal infections and fatal encephalitis.


Congratulations to faculty, staff and students on recent publications:

Jirků M, Votýpka J, Petrželková KJ, Jirků-Pomajbíková K, Kriegová E, Vodička R, Lankester F. et al. (2015). Wild chimpanzees are infected by Trypanosoma brucei. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife. 4:277–82. doi:10.1016/j.ijppaw.2015.05.001.

Munyua PM, Murithi RM, Ithondeka P, Hightower A, Thumbi SM, Anyangu SA, Kiplimo J, Bett B, Vrieling A, Breiman RF, Njenga MK. (2016). Predictive factors and risk mapping for Rift Valley Fever epidemics in Kenya. PLoS One 11(1): e0144570. doi: 10.1371/journalpone.0144570

Subbiah M, Mitchell SM, Call DR. 2016. Not all antibiotic use practices in food-animal agriculture afford the same risk. Journal of Environmental Quality 45:1-12.

Xu K, Chan Y-P, Bradel-Tretheway B, Akyol-Ataman Z., Y., Dutta S, Yan L, Feng Y, Wang LF, Skiniotis G, Lee B, Zhou H, Broder CC, Aguilar HC, Nikolov, DB (2015). Crystal structure of the pre-fusion Nipah virus fusion glycoprotein reveals a novel hexamer-of-trimers assembly . PLoS Pathogens. 11(12):e1005322.

Project Updates:

Participants at the Preventing Zoonotic Diseases in Kenya meeting

A kick-off meeting for the recently funded CDC Global Health Security Agenda project “Preventing Zoonotic Diseases in Kenya” (Dr. M.K. Njenga, PI; Dr. Terry McElwain and Dr. Thumbi Mwangi, Co-Is) was held in Nairobi, December 6-7, 2015. The meeting brought together project collaborators from the Allen School, CDC-Kenya, the Government of Kenya’s Zoonotic Disease Unit (joint unit of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries), Kenya Wildlife Services, Kansas State University, Texas A&M’s Texas Center for Applied Technology, and Global Implementation Solutions.

The recent publication Incentives increase participation in mass dog rabies vaccination clinics and methods of coverage estimation are assessed to be accurate (Minyoo A, Steinmetz M, Czupryna A, Bigambo M, Mzimbiri I, Powell G, Gwakisa P, Lankester F.) was featured by PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases in a press release and picked up for coverage in Science Daily among others. The paper is also significant because it emanates from the Allen School’s collaboration with the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology for faculty mentoring of post-grad students.  

Student and Fellow News

Svetlana Lockwood, PhD student of Dr. Shira Broschat, co-chaired one of four workshops at the prestigious Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing in Hawaii held Jan. 4-8, 2016.  The workshop was titled Biomedical Applications of Topology and Abstract Algebras. Her fellow co-chairs were Dr. Eric Neumann, VP of Knowledge Informatics, Dr. David Spivak, Department of Mathematics at MIT, and Dr. Bala Krishnamoorthy, Dept. of Mathematics at WSU.  

DeeAnn Daite, undergraduate Animal Science student working in the lab of Dr. Jennifer Zambriski, was recently awarded the Boeing Cyber Grant Research Scholarship for her work on Cryptosporidium epidemiology.

Jose Guizar, undergraduate Chemical Engineering student working in the lab of Dr. Douglas Call, was recently awarded the Boeing Cyber Grant Research Scholarship for his work on mechanisms of florfenicol antibiotic resistance.

Graduate students recently passing prelim exams include:
  • Gamila Bohaliga, student of Dr. Massaro Ueti. Presentation title: “Disrupting Babesia bigemina transmission by targeting tick-stage parasite proteins.”
  • Jessica Klein, student of Dr. Leigh Knodler. Presentation title: “The role of Type III secretion systems in vacuole rupture & cytosolic proliferation of Salmonella Enterica.”
  • Tessa LeCuyer, student of Dr. Tom Besser and Dr. Margaret Davis. Presentation title: “Clonality and antimicrobial resistance in canine uropathogenic Escherichia coli.”
  • Tri Komala Sari, student of Dr. Anthony Nicola. Presentation title: “The role of herpes simplex virus Type 1 envelope glycoprotein C in low pH-dependent entry.”

Roberta Koku is a new PhD student in the lab of Dr. Susan Noh.  Ms. Koku previously worked as a principal research scientist and student supervisor in the lab of Dr. James Futse at the University of Ghana, where her research focused on vaccine development targeting Anaplasma marginale. At the Allen School, Ms. Koku’s research will focus on the role of strain structure in the maintenance of genetic diversity among populations of A. marginale in highly endemic regions.

Members of Dr. Devendra Shah’s lab presented the following talks and posters at the 96th Conference of Research Workers on Animal Disease (CRWAD) held in Chicago, December 7-9 2015.


  1. Salmonella pathogenicity island 13 contributes to pathogenesis in streptomycin pre-treated mice but not in day-old chickens (Jake Elder, PhD Candidate). Jake received the 2015 Lynn Joens Memorial Award for the best oral presentation (1st place) in Pathobiology of Enteric and Food-borne pathogens section. This is second year in a row Jake has received this award.
  2. Salmonella pathogenicity island 13 contributes to the metabolic fitness of Salmonella Enteritidis through glucuronic acid and tyramine metabolism (Jake Elder, PhD Candidate)


  1. Antimicrobial resistance and molecular characterization and of Salmonella Kentucky isolates from human and poultry (Carson Sakamoto, DVM summer research fellow)
  2. Population dynamics and antimicrobial resistome of the most prevalent poultry-associated Salmonella serotypes isolated from the US poultry (Dr. Devendra Shah)
  3. Inter- and intra-serotype differences in the uptake, survival and modulation of nitric oxide production in avian macrophages (HD-11) by the Most Prevalent Poultry-associated Salmonella seroTypes (Dr. Wael Elnyaad, visiting scientist from Egypt)
  4. Assessment of antimicrobial activity of chlorine against most prevalent poultry-associated Salmonella serotypes in a chicken-meat-based model (Dr. Narayan Paul, post-doctoral research associate).

Faculty and Staff News

JoJo Avian

Johnnetsy (JoJo) Avillan is a new Research Intern currently conducting research on antimicrobial resistance in the lab of Dr. Douglas Call.  She will be involved in various research projects through her position in the Allen School.

Dr. Rowland Cobbold

Dr. Rowland Cobbold, Associate Professor of Veterinary Public Health at the University of Queensland, Australia, is back at WSU as a Visiting Scholar at the Allen School this January - February. Dr. Cobbold served on the College of Veterinary Medicine faculty at WSU from 2001 – 2005, conducting research on the epidemiology of food-borne disease. His research interests span molecular epidemiology and microbiology of zoonotic diseases, including antimicrobial resistance; control and prevention of food-borne pathogens at the farm and processing levels; veterinary education; and One Health, specifically how human impacts and other environmental changes are associated with zoonotic disease emergence and transmission to humans. Dr. Cobbold’s short sabbatical position within the Allen School aims to renew and strengthen collaborative linkages between UQ and WSU and develop on-going projects that bring together the respective expertise of these institutions in response to global animal and human health challenges. Current work is focusing on drafting proposals to investigate drivers for antimicrobial selection decisions in developing countries and how these can be used to develop improved approaches to prudent use and thereby reduce the threat of resistant infections. Dr. Cobbold has an Adjunct Faculty appointment in the Allen School.


Dr. Thumbi Mwangi was recently honored with the following awards:

  • 2015 Veterinarian of the Year Award in Research from the Kenya Veterinary Association.
  • First prize for Outstanding Research Article in Biosurveillance, 2015 by the International Society for Disease Surveillance (ISDS) for the article “Linking human health to livestock health.” Co-authors include Allen School faculty members Drs. Terry McElwain, Guy Palmer, Tom Marsh, Susan Noh and M.K. Njenga, among others. 
    Additionally, Dr. Mwangi received a travel award to present the work at the 14th annual ISDS conference held at Denver, Colorado December 9-10, 2015.

VetofTheYearDr. Thumbi Mwangi (left) is presented 2015 Veterinarian of the Year Award in Research by the by KVA president Dr. Victor Yamo (center) and KVA council member Dr. Mary Mathenge.

  • A travel award from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the US Department of Defense to attend the 2nd One Health Central and East Africa Network International Conference held in Kampala, Uganda November 16-20. Thumbi presented a paper on “Misconceptions about rabies and rabies elimination in Kenya.”
  • Invited panelist at the Pathways Kenya 2016 conference on a session on “Minimizing the Impact of Disease within the Ecosystem: Assessing Pathogens in the Environment and Control of Invertebrate Vectors of Disease, with a travel award from USAID - Kenya. The conference held at the Fairmont Mt. Kenya Safari Club, Nanyuki, January 10- 13, 2016.


Dr. Douglas Call was presented with the Washington State University Honors Faculty Award in recognition of his “outstanding academic accomplishments”, December 2015.

Dr. Anthony Nicola has been re-appointed as associate editor of Virology Journal for a three year term.  Virology Journal is published by BioMed Central.

Drs. Tim Baszler, Terry McElwain and Barbara Martin traveled to Phnom Pehn, Cambodia, to deliver the National Veterinary Research Institute (NaVRI) Quality Management System Training course, November 17-19, 2015. The objective of the training is to improve human and veterinary health laboratory operations and regional biosurveillance and biosecurity through implementation of quality management practices that will lead to improved laboratory and laboratory network performance.

Dr. Douglas Call served on an NIH Special Emphasis Panel for the AREA Infectious Diseases and Microbiology proposals in Washington, DC, in November

Drs. Douglas Call and Haluk Beyenal were interviewed on the BYUradio program Top of Mind with Julie Rose. You can listen to their segment by clicking on the episode Electrical Stimulation on Bacterial Infections.

Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreño recently presented a talk titled “Glycoprotein team burglary: Entry of the deadly zoonotic Nipah virus” for Cornell University’s Microbiology and Immunology program, UCLA’s Scientific Excellence through Diversity - STEM-PLEDGE seminar series, and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, held  in Seattle.

Dr. Felix Lankester presented a talk “Malignant catarrhal fever: A vaccine trial and economic impact assessment” at the Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute 10th Scientific Conference, Arusha, Tanzania, December 2-4 2015. Co-authors are Drs. Ahmed Lugelo, Rudovick Kazwala, Julius Keyyu, Ahab Ndabigaye, Jonathan Yoder, George Russell, David Haig and Sarah Cleaveland. 

An article on the WSU – University of Nairobi collaboration featuring Dr. Guy Palmer appeared in the UoN’s news page – see it here.

Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health

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