Zoonotic Disease

Cell membrane ruffling around Salmonella bacteria. Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, CDC, NIH.

Zoonotic Disease Pathogenesis and Transmission

The Allen School supports a variety of zoonotic disease research ranging from the intracellular behavior of pathogens to the development of surveillance and diagnostic techniques in developing countries. Much of this research work is completed at the Allen Center on the WSU campus while there are also satellite research facilities in Tanzania and Kenya.

Research emphases and related faculty are discussed below. You may also be interested in Allen School work with antimicrobial resistance, epidemiology, and socio-economic research.

Borrelia (Lyme Disease and Relapsing Fever)

Researcher: Dr. Troy Bankhead
Dr. Bankhead’s research team studies mechanisms of persistence exhibited by Borrelia species. There is a focus on antigenic variation and the examination of the immune evasion system. In the long-term, the team seeks to identify the proteins required for antigenic variation and the mammalian host factors that activate the system.
Dr. Troy Bankhead Profile

Anaplasma marginale

Researcher: Dr. Kelly Brayton
Dr. Brayton uses comparative genomics, functional genomics, transcriptomics, and molecular methods to study hemoparasitic disease (specifically A. marginale). Her team also conducts research efforts in the biology of tick transmission processes and vaccine discovery.
Dr. Kelly Brayton Profile

Researcher: Dr. Susan Noh
Dr. Noh’s research goals are to develop methods to prevent tick-borne disease. Also studying A. marginale, her research efforts focus on the vector-pathogen interface and the interface between the pathogen and mammalian host.
Dr. Susan Noh Profile

Brucella abortus (Brucellosis)

Researcher: Dr. Jean Celli
Dr. Celli conducts a research program studying the mechanisms of intracellular survival and the proliferation of Brucella abortus, the causative agent of the worldwide zoonotic disease brucellosis. His team focuses on the functionality of secretion effector proteins and the role of host autophagy pathways in B. abortus dissemination.
Dr. Jean Celli Profile

Graduate Spotlight

Alexis Cotto-Rosario

Alexis Cotto-Rosario is a graduate student in the IID program. He has been focusing his research on characterizing the host-pathogen interaction of bacterium from the genus Brucella. When reflecting on why he chose the IID program at WSU, Cotto-Rosario said, “I decided on the Immunology and Infectious Disease program because of the commitment it has with the students and the passion of the people for science. The program supports the exploration of new research ideas and promotes collaborations among scientists. Commitment, support, and passion; that's why I joined the program."
Alexis Cotto-Rosario Full Interview
Graduate Training Opportunities

Francisella tularensis (Tularemia)

Researcher: Dr. Tom Kawula
Dr. Kawula’s research group studies mechanisms by which the zoonotic bacterial pathogen Francisella tularensis suppresses host immunity and subverts infected cell metabolism to establish an intracellular environment that supports bacterial intracellular growth.
Dr. Tom Kawula Profile

Salmonella enterica

Researcher: Dr. Leigh Knodler
Dr. Knodler’s research team studies S. enterica, the leading bacterial cause of food-borne illness. Research focuses on understanding how enteropathogenic bacteria cause disease and the factors that dictate the intracellular fate of S. enterica in intestinal epithelial cells.
Dr. Leigh Knodler Profile

Coxiella burnetti and Chlamydia trachomatis (Q Fever and Trachoma)

Researcher: Dr. Anders Omsland
Dr. Omsland’s research focuses on understanding physiochemical and nutritional requirements of obligate intracellular parasites and techniques to facilitate their physiological analysis. Long-term research interests include nutritional regulation of pathogen virulence and the metabolic basis of persistent infections.
Dr. Anders Omsland Profile

Yersinia pestis (Bubonic Plague)

Researcher: Dr. Viveka Vadyvaloo
Dr. Vadyvaloo conducts original research in the transmission and persistence of the etiological agents of the bubonic plague, Yersinia pestis. Her team focuses on the genetic basis of bacterial pathogen transmission and the persistence and re-emergence of the plague using both fleas and protozoa as host models. This work will lead towards a better understanding of these factors as a target for disease prevention.
Dr. Viveka Vadyvaloo Profile


Researcher: Dr. Timothy Baszler
Dr. Baszler’s research projects study the advancement and delivery of tools for laboratory diagnosticians and regulatory disease officials. This work focuses on global infectious disease surveillance and diagnostic capacity building in developing countries. His work with WADDL also allows him to explore the improvement of diagnostic laboratory Quality Management Systems related to laboratory biosafety and biosecurity practices.
Dr. Timothy Baszler Profile
Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab (WADDL)

Faculty Working in this Research Area

Troy Bankhead

Troy Bankhead


Ass​ociate Professor

Lyme disease and relapsing fever Borrelia species; antigenic variation and persistence mechanisms

Timothy Baszler

Timothy Baszler


Exec Director, Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory; Assoc Director Disease Surveillance, Paul G. Allen School for Global Health

Kelly A. Brayton

Kelly A. Brayton


Chair of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology; Professor

Tick-borne pathogens: genomics, transmission biology and microbiome analyses

Jean Celli

Jean Celli



Host-pathogen interactions; bacterial effector proteins; type IV secretion; Brucella abortus

Tom Kawula

Tom Kawula


Director Paul G. Allen School for Global Health; Professor; Director of Graduate Education

Pathogenesis mechanisms and host immunity to intracellular bacterial pathogens

Leigh Knodler

Leigh Knodler


Associate Professor

Host-pathogen interactions; Salmonella enterica; type III secretion; gastrointestinal infections

Susan M Noh

Susan M Noh


Research Molecular Biologist

Vector-borne disease; tick-pathogen-host interaction; vaccine development

Anders Omsland

Anders Omsland


Associate Professor

Bacterial obligate intracellular parasites; Bacterial physiology; Bacterial developmental biology

Viveka Vadyvaloo

Viveka Vadyvaloo


Associate Professor

Arthropod vector-pathogen interactions; Plague