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FFAR Awards Funds to Researchers at University of Wyoming to Develop Test for Brucellosis in Swine and Cattle

  • Advanced Animal Systems
image of a cow in a field
Brucella suis, a disease affecting both swine and cattle, does not have a reliable diagnostic test.

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, a nonprofit organization established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, awarded $149,000 to scientists at University of Wyoming (UW) to develop a faster, more accurate diagnostic test for detection of swine brucellosis, a costly disease affecting swine and cattle. Researchers at Texas A&M University will collaborate with UW scientists to collect samples from infected animals. The universities are matching the Foundation’s grant for a $299,000 total investment.

Brucella suis, a strain of Brucellosis, is prevalent in feral swine, but can infect domestic swine and cattle where populations overlap. No gold standard test exists for accurately identifying B. suis in living animals. In addition, the disease is difficult to differentiate from Brucella abortus, a disease in cattle with strict international trade regulations. In Wyoming, a single outbreak of brucellosis in cattle can cost more than $250,000 in lost cattle and other damages. International trade is also affected when outbreaks occur, representing additional economic losses to producers.

By developing more accurate disease detection, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research hopes to remove uncertainty and further strengthen America’s hog and cattle industries. Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Executive Director Emeritus

An estimated 6 million feral swine live in 38 of 50 states in the U.S. For states dealing with this invasive species, it is important to mitigate diseases spread to livestock, such as B. suis. This project will develop a novel quantitative real-time test for B. suis in swine and cattle.

“Texas farmers and ranchers know all too well how brucellosis can harm the state’s cattle industry,” Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening said. “The large and growing feral hog population compounds our risk to spread disease. We will all benefit from a tool that helps to quickly distinguish swine brucellosis from the highly regulated cattle strain.”

The first phase of research will acquire samples from 300 feral swine in Texas. Samples will be analyzed to validate the new testing procedures developed for this project.

Brant Schumaker, DVM, Ph.D., an associate professor in veterinary sciences at University of Wyoming, will lead the team of collaborators.

The fact that swine brucellosis cross-reacts on diagnostic tests for cattle brucellosis leads to severe regulatory consequences for domestic animal producers whose animals are in contact with feral swine. We are excited that our experience developing new diagnostic tools to control bovine brucellosis in the greater Yellowstone area has allowed us to help address the emerging threat from feral swine. Brant Schumaker, DVM, Ph.D.
University of Wyoming

Co-principal investigators on this project include:

  • Noah Hull, doctoral student at University of Wyoming
  • Walt Cook, DVM, Ph.D., clinical associate professor at Texas A&M University

The research team assembled the Consortium for Animal Disease Diagnostic Innovation (CADDI) to support and assist the project. The diverse consortium consists of 29 members, including representatives from Wyoming Livestock Board, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

The grant is issued through the Foundation’s Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research (ROAR) program, an initiative designed to prevent and mitigate damage from emerging pests and pathogens through short-term research funding. Applicants are encouraged to form broad-based coalitions to increase research collaboration and maximize the mitigation potential of each grant.


Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

About University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming provides quality undergraduate and graduate programs to 12,366 students from all 50 states and 88 countries. Established in 1886, UW is a nationally recognized research institution with accomplished faculty and world-class facilities. Offering 200 areas of study, UW provides an environment for success. A low student/faculty ratio allows for individual instruction and attention and undergraduates often participate in cutting-edge research projects.