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As another academic year wind downs, Allen School affiliated students and post-docs are gearing up for summer research activities, with several using the opportunity to pursue their interests and growing expertise to work on international infectious disease control efforts. Students working with Drs. Jennifer Zambriski, Thumbi Mwangi, Gretchen Kaufman and Doug Call will be working on projects in Africa and Indonesia to improve understanding of disease transmission and to integrate animal health and human health research and related projects in a One Health approach.

A Tanzanian household with livestock.
Photo by Doug Call
For two students, this is also an opportunity to visit home. Deogratius Mshanga and Sylvia Omulo, from Tanzania and Kenya, respectively, are both students in the lab of Dr. Doug Call. Deogratius will be working in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), in Arusha, Tanzania, to identify practices and risk factors associated with antimicrobial resistant E. coli in cattle, which may also pose health risks to people. Data from this project will contribute to his doctoral thesis. While in Arusha, Deogratius will also assist Allen School faculty member Dr. Felix Lankester in implementation of rabies control activities.

E. coli
Sylvia will also be conducting research on antimicrobial resistance, testing E. coli collected from soil samples in two field sites in Kenya (Kibera and Lwak) for antibiotic resistance. Her data will contribute to her thesis and provide the basis of upcoming grant applications. Sylvia also prepared a review paper on antibiotic resistance research in Eastern Africa as an invited talk at the Regional Conference on Zoonotic Diseases in Eastern Africa, scheduled for May 27-29 in Nairobi.

Dr. Murugan Subbiah, post-doctoral fellow working with Dr. Call, will travel to Tanzania to work on the NSF- and UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council-funded project "Ecological and socioeconomic factors impacting maintenance and dissemination of antibiotic resistance in the greater Serengeti ecosystem." He will work to set up a microbiology laboratory at NM-AIST, isolate E. coli from fecal samples obtained from livestock, humans, and companion and wild animals, and train undergraduate and graduate students in Arusha on basic and advanced microbiological techniques.

Three CVM students will be conducting international research this summer, including two enrolled in the Global Health Pathway certificate program. CVM student Victoria Olsen-Mikitowicz will be working in Nyanza Provence in western Kenya with Allen School faculty member Dr. Thumbi Mwangi, on his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project "Reducing impact of malaria in humans and East Coast Fever in cattle through worm control." This past spring, Victoria worked with Drs. Jennifer Zambriski and Douglas Call on the Pullman campus to develop a cytokine stimulation assay. The assay will help to determine if there is immunopathology (or immunological hijacking) related to heavy helminthic parasite infections in cattle and to identify how the effects from those changes may affect a host’s ability to mount a competent immune response. Victoria will travel to Kenya to implement and train local scientists on use of the assay, and interpret the results.

Goats for Widows program participant. Health in Harmony photo.
Carolynn Fitterer, a Global Health Pathway student mentored by Dr. Gretchen Kaufman, will travel to Borneo to conduct her project, "Evaluation of goat health and management as a component of a community health program in Indonesia." She will test for Brucella melitensis in goats maintained as part of a program known as Goats for Widows, established by the NGO Health in Harmony in Indonesian Borneo to introduce farming to disadvantaged households and produce manure for organic farming. Brucella infection is one of the most common zoonotic diseases worldwide, with more than 500,000 new cases reported annually. Results of the study will be used by the Goats for Widows program to raise awareness of the zoonotic risk of Brucella and aid the program in revising their goat health management and widow education program to improve both goat and human health. Carolynn received a CVM Summer Research Fellowship for her project.

Matt Sammons will be in Kenya working on a UW-led project (Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, PI) "One Health approach to childhood growth and development: Identifying and resetting high-risk household gut microbiomes", funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. While in Kenya, Matt will also conduct his Global Health Pathway project "Sampling the microbiome of surfaces – how much is enough?" mentored by Dr. Doug Call and funded by a CVM Summer Research Fellowship.

An additional Global Animal Health Pathway student, Cassie Westfall, is doing research close to home this summer. Cassie, the first Utah State University DVM student accepted into the Pathway program, is working on H5N1 Avian Influenza vaccine development in a lab at the University of Utah.

Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health

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